Tom Brady and some of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates kept practicing this week, undeterred by the novel coronavirus pandemic and last weekend’s recommendation by the NFL Players Association that players refrain from gathering in groups to conduct their own workouts ahead of next month’s opening of teams’ training camps.
The NFL weighed in on the topic Thursday when Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, was asked about the practices that are being organized and held by Brady and other Buccaneers players at a Tampa-area high school.
“This is, again, a place where the NFLPA and the NFL are in the same exact place, which is we want whatever makes the safest possible environment for all of our constituents, whether they be players, coaches, trainers, medical staff, anyone in that team environment,” Sills said. “So we’re going to work very hard together to educate everyone about the steps that we feel collectively are going to be most effective at reducing risk for everyone. Again, this is all about risk reduction to try to mitigate risk. We know that we can’t eliminate risk.”
Sills did not mention Brady’s name as he spoke to reporters on a conference call after addressing the NFL’s team owners during a video conference earlier Thursday afternoon.
“We will work very much hand in hand with the Players Association because this, again, this is where everyone in that team environment is going to share the same risk,” Sills said. “But they’ll also share the same responsibility to each other, which means that everyone is going to be dependent on each other member of that team environment for doing the very best that they can to implement these measures and to keep themselves and their household members as safe as possible throughout the course of the season.”
In an Instagram post Thursday, Brady referenced President Franklin D. Roosevelt and wrote, “only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
NFL teams have held no official on-field practices this offseason. Teams’ offseason programs for players were conducted entirely remotely. Those programs must end by Friday. Most NFL teams are scheduled to report to training camps July 28.
It’s commonplace for Brady and other NFL quarterbacks to organize unofficial offseason workouts with their teammates. But this, of course, is an offseason unlikely any other.
“I think right now that we and the Players Association are both encouraging players and all team personnel – not just players, but coaches and everyone – to follow the best public health guidelines that we have,” Sills said Thursday. “So we’re in the same place there. Obviously the club personnel that we do have working at our club facilities are covered under the club protocols that we have in place there right now. So, for example, a number of coaches are back working in the facilities. But there are no players there, other than those who are continuing to receive medical treatment and rehab.”
Brady and his Buccaneers teammates are not the only NFL players conducting voluntary workouts on their own. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson posted a video this week of himself working out with a teammate, wide receiver D.K. Metcalf. But the spotlight naturally finds Brady, the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback who left the New England Patriots this offseason. Some of Brady’s associates and supporters within the league feel that, while criticism comes with being such a public figure, the league and union should have issued mandates and highly specific guidelines if they wanted to keep players from practicing together.
The NFLPA’s guidance was not binding. It was an advisory, issued Saturday via a written statement by Thom Mayer, the union’s medical director.
Brady was asked during his introductory conference call in March, just after signing with the Buccaneers, about adjusting to his new team and getting in sync with his new teammates under such unique circumstances.
“I’m going to do the best I can to be in conversation with guys and try to get together and find ways to meet up in different places and get to work in that sense,” Brady said. “Technology is an amazing thing, and we’re going to use the technology as best we can to try to get to know each other. For me, they’re ahead of me on what they need to know in terms of the offense. So I’ve really got to get up to speed with the things that they already know and their terminology.”
The NFL is tracking the number of players and other personnel who test positive for the virus through teams’ newly established infection control staffs, Sills said Thursday, and is sharing that data with the NFLPA. The league has sent teams an extensive set of protocols for the eventual return of players to teams’ facilities. The NFL and NFLPA still are working out the details of testing and treatment. The NFLPA told agents last week that it expects players to be tested about three times per week.