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What you need to know about COVID-19: October 9, 2020
When Tom Brady finally was permitted to enter the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ facilities a week ago, he didn’t even know where the meeting rooms were. For quarterbacks or anyone else.
Yeah, that’s how much there is to learn this month for the 21st-year NFL quarterback on his new team, and indeed for all players and coaches new to their surroundings throughout the league.
For Brady, after spending two full decades with the New England Patriots, it isn’t just head coach Bruce Arians’ offence he has been trying to quickly digest since signing as a free agent in March. It’s everything else too, right down to attaching names to faces of all his new teammates — outside of his old pal Gronk, tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“You get in here and your brain is trying to figure out a lot of different things,” Brady said Thursday, in his first video conference call with reporters of training camp.
“For example, study my playbook. I mean, I really haven’t had to do that in 19 years, so you forget, ‘Man, that’s really tough’ — like all of the different terminologies. You’re going back a very long time in my career to really have to put the mental energy in like I did. I have to work at it pretty hard, physically, still.
“I put a lot of time and energy into making sure I’m feeling good in order to perform at my best, but mentally I think that’s been the thing that’s obviously had its challenges. I think you couple that with the coronavirus situation and it became even more difficult. I think conversations we probably would’ve had in April, we’re having now … We’ve got a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time.”
So long as Brady can get on the same page quickly enough with what might be the league’s most talented group of pass catchers — led by Pro Bowl wideouts Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, plus Gronk — it’ll just come down to whether Brady can still glisten physically. After all, no active QB knows the game as thoroughly as the six-time Super Bowl winner.
“Mentally, I still feel like I have all the ability,” Brady said. “There’s (no) play I haven’t run, there’s no defence I haven’t seen. It’s just, physically, are you still able to execute your job?”
Then Brady, who turned 43 on Monday, answered his own (and everybody else’s most pressing) question.
“I’m very fortunate to still be able to do that.”
Brady, of course, isn’t the only player having to take the crashing-est of on-field courses in order to ramp up for September’s regular season. Teams with intact coaching staffs and returning players at principal positions for sure have an edge, at least at the outset of the 2020 season. Remember that when you make your Week 1 picks.
As further example, veteran Washington guard Brandon Scherff was asked Wednesday about the differences between his previous offensive-line coach, Bill Callahan, and his successor John Matsko.
“It’s a whole new terminology, so we have to learn different terminologies, he has different footwork,” Scherff said. “It’s all his way of coaching and you just have to listen to the coach. I’m excited to learn all the new things that he has to teach us.”
The thing is, no players across the league can begin real hitting for another couple of weeks. Then only for a couple of weeks.
Aug. 3-11 is an “acclimation period” during which players are permitted only limited on-field work. There is no hitting, no full padding, no team drills of any kind. Thus, O-linemen cannot practise game-situation blocking.
Aug. 12-16 is called the “gradual ramp-up period,” followed by two weeks of “contact integration” in actual padded, but limited, practices. Just two weeks. Then it’s cut-downs, and Week 1 begins.
O-linemen, then, will have only a handful of padded practices and no preseason games before the season kicks off. That’s borderline unfair.
Many offensive coaches have complained since 2011 about the scant on-field time they get with O-linemen over the entire April-August timeframe, compared to years previous.
This year, given the above, and with all on-field “OTA” practices in May and June having been wiped out by COVID-19, players get only a small fraction of that.
Now extrapolate what Brady said about his QB challenges and what Scherff said about Washington O-linemen to all position groups —for teams such as Cleveland and the New York Giants that hit reset buttons across the board with new coaching staffs. There surely will be significant ramp-up issues and growing pains for those teams.
NO MORE OPTING OUT
In the end, a reported 62 NFL players opted out of playing in 2020.
Players had until Thursday at 4 p.m. ET to inform their teams in writing if they’d decided to opt out of playing this season.
The first to do so on, July 24, was Canadian Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, the Kansas City Chiefs right guard.
The last five to officially do so on Thursday were Cleveland G Malcolm Pidgeon, Jacksonville CB Rashaan Melvin, Kansas City OT Lucas Niang (the only rookie draft pick to do so), New York Jets WR Josh Doctson and Tampa Bay OT Brad Seaton.
Only four teams did not have a single player opt out: Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers.
New England had the most (with eight), followed by Cleveland (with five, all linemen, including three guards).
The most prominent player who mulled down to the last day to opt out was all-pro Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, who admitted on Wednesday he remained undecided. But he did not opt out by Thursday’s deadline.
White on Wednesday took grief from too many knuckleheaded fans, and did not hesitate on social media to lambaste them:
“Crazy that me choosing my family’s well-being over a game comes with so-called fans attacking and questioning me and saying I’m selfish. No, you guys are selfish for thinking that football is bigger than life. Oh by the way, my girl’s grandfather passed from COVID. U understand now?”
Yikes, the Miami Dolphins placed six players Thursday on the reserve/COVID-19 list: DT Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, DE Shaq Lawson, S Brandon Jones, G Solomon Kindley and WR Kirk Merritt. Two Las Vegas Raiders and two New Orleans Saints also went on the list.
The Dolphins did activate two players off reserve/COVID-19, among six across the league on Thursday: RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler.
Forty-nine of 104 players parked on the list since the start of training camps already have come off it.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020