The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a completely virtual offseason for NFL teams, which have had to conduct training sessions remotely. The Buccaneers began allowing their coaches to return to the team’s facility last week, but players are still ordered to stay away unless they are receiving medical treatment.
After ending his decorated, 20-year career with the New England Patriots in March, Brady signed as a free agent with the Bucs, replacing the turnover-prone Jameis Winston. As soon as Florida began lifting stay-at-home orders in May, he started organizing informal practices, at least some of which have been held at Tampa-area high school fields.
That was the case Tuesday, as the soon-to-be-43-year-old quarterback and other Tampa Bay players were spotted at Berkeley Preparatory School, which is about a 20-minute drive away from where Brady is renting a home from Derek Jeter.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Brady’s favorite pass-catcher while with the Patriots, new Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowksi, was also on hand, as was Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin and several other players who have been regulars at the practices. In fact, the newspaper reported, attendance Tuesday appeared to be swelled by the participation of some Tampa Bay defensive backs.
When asked for comment, an NFL spokesman pointed The Washington Post to a statement the league made in May: “Everyone associated with the NFL should follow the recommendations and guidelines of state and local authorities and medical experts, including the NFLPA.”
On Saturday, the NFLPA posted a message from its medical director, Thom Mayer, who said, “Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in COVID-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts. Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.
“We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season, and believe that this is in the best interest of all players that we advise against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences.”
“There’s a growing fear amongst players right now,” a player in Major League Soccer, which is set to relaunch next month with a tournament in Orlando, recently told the Athletic. “We agreed to this when the cases in Florida were low, and now that they’ve spiked, there’s real concern on a number of levels.”
NFL players training elsewhere have also recently become infected, including Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott, as well as members of the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers.
By Wednesday, the death toll from the coronavirus in the United States reached at least 119,000. Tuesday also saw Brady post several images of his workout to Instagram, including one showing him and Gronkowski that he captioned, “No excuses.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Tuesday that the spike in cases in his state was offset to some degree by the fact that younger people, who tend to be less severely affected, have been contracting the coronavirus. The median age among positive tests in Florida fell to 35 over the past week (per the Orlando Sentinel).
“If you look at any data set, the folks in that age group — unless they have a real serious underlying condition — do not suffer the same types of clinical consequences, whether hospitalization or certainly covid-related fatalities, that people in the older group would do,” DeSantis said while speaking at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
However, the Trump Administration’s top infectious-diseases expert, Anthony S. Fauci, said at a congressional hearing that “thinking that young people have no deleterious consequences is not true.”
“We’re seeing more and more complications in young people,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force. “But even though the majority — the overwhelming majority of them — do well, what you can’t forget is that, if you get infected and spread the infection, even though you do not get sick, you are part of the process of the dynamics of an outbreak.”
Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, has had more new cases in each of the past five days than at any point over the previous four weeks, according to Florida’s covid-19 dashboard. It reached a single-day high in positive cases Wednesday with 716 new infections.
In a video posted Saturday by the county, Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians was shown advising Hillsborough residents to “keep your distance from each other.”
“During these difficult times, it’s important that we all show we care about our community’s health,” said the 67-year-old Arians. ‘’You could spread covid-19 without knowing it. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. … Stay strong, and go Bucs.”