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Bill Cowher is ‘relieved’ about Hall of Fame postponement: ‘Now is not the time’

Bill Cowher, right, like Jimmy Johnson, will have to wait another year to be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (David J. Phillip/AP)
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Bill Cowher will have to wait a year for the moment that will cap his coaching career, but he isn’t complaining.

Cowher, who said he has recovered from covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, said there will be a better time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony and preseason Hall of Fame Game that have been postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic.

“I’m really kind of relieved,” Cowher told the Athletic. “As much as you want to be reflective and talk about the people who were so instrumental in your life, now is not the time, not just with covid but with the social justice issues. These are very transparent times and it’s so fluid. The Hall of Fame needs to be reflective. I’m glad it’s still going to be Dallas and Pittsburgh playing, which is great. I think right now it’s just hard to really think about anything celebratory when the country is in the state it is.”

The induction of the Class of 2020 was moved to Aug. 7, 2021, the day the Class of 2021 is scheduled to be enshrined. The Steelers and Cowboys are scheduled to play Aug. 5, 2021.

Cowher went on to reveal that he and his wife, Veronica, became ill from the virus in March when they returned to New York after an aborted trip to Japan. The tipoff came when he couldn’t smell a bouquet of lilies and a stir fry.

“I said: ‘What a bad bunch of lilies. I’m never going back to that florist again,’ ” the CBS NFL commentator and former Steelers coach said. “And my wife made this stir fry, and I said, ‘Did you forget to put the ginger in there?’ She said, ‘I put a bunch of ginger in there.’ I said, ‘I can’t taste it.’ ”

The couple had returned from Honolulu after a trip to Tokyo to see daughter Lindsay and her husband, Ryan Kelly, a former NBA player who plays in the Japanese B.League. When the virus halted play in Japan, Lindsay and the Cowhers met up in Hawaii.

The Cowhers, who returned to their Manhattan home through Newark Liberty International Airport on March 12, aren’t certain where they caught the virus. Shortly after New York City shut down March 20, Cowher had a slight fever and his wife developed a dry cough.

“I think I got it in New York and all the traveling, people coming into Newark Airport at the same time,’’ Cowher said. “That’s when the virus came from Europe and there was no shutdown. We were out in New York that weekend as well in a few restaurants. Who knows? There were people in Honolulu coming from China, and in Newark they were coming from Europe.”

Although they weren’t tested when they were symptomatic, they tested positive for antibodies in April. Tests are crucial, Cowher believes, for the NFL season to take place, and he admitted he wasn’t certain whether it could.

“Number one, the players have to feel comfortable with whatever they come up with from a testing standpoint, from a protocol standpoint,” he said. “I totally understand the reluctance. Even though they say young people aren’t getting it, you also have people who have asthma, people who have underlying conditions in their families — they’re going back to their homes with parents who may now be elderly. It’s not like you can isolate yourself from everybody, particularly during a season that’s five months long.”