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Back in the CFL’s coaching ranks, Scott Milanovich is taking a business-as-usual approach to the whole COVID-19 situation.
As usual as possible, at least, for someone stuck 4,000 km away in Florida, which locked down its borders on the weekend.
The good news is he is spending the isolation alongside his wife, Jaime, and their teenage daughters, Macall and Maggie, at their family home, where they are under a statewide executive order to remain in for all but the essentials, until further notice.
“Yeah, I think the house is closing in on us all a bit,” Milanovich said with a laugh. “I don’t know how bad it is up there, but it’s pretty rough around here. It’s not even bad in Florida, I’m just talking about in the US. We’ll know a lot more, apparently from what I’ve been reading, in the next month.
“Florida just got shut down to non-essential business, but shockingly, there are more things open than would be open than you’d think. There’s the grocery stores, convenience stores, things like that, but theoretically they’ll arrest you if you’re just out running around.”
Needless to say, it’s not exactly the off-season he imagined when he took the job as new head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos, after having spent the past three NFL seasons as quarterbacks coach with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Looking back, he made the jump in December from a fall league down south that is much better situated to ride out the coronavirus crisis than a Canadian circuit that kicks off in the spring.
Take it for what it’s worth, but US president Donald Trump reportedly said on a conference call Saturday with major league sports commissioners he believes the NFL should start on time in September.
Then again, it’s not like Milanovich had a crystal football to peer into back then.
“I don’t doubt my decision, not for a second,” he said. “As far as how the season’s going to sort out, I guess that you’d have to say that you’d have a better opportunity of getting a full season if it started later, that’s probably common sense.
“But, no. I don’t doubt my decision. I’m looking forward to it, I can’t wait to get back up there and our players are really chomping at the bit to get started. So it’s tough right now, but we’ve got to make sure we take care of what’s important.”
And, at the same time, not lose sight of.
“I guess I’m probably like everybody else, I sent out a letter about a month ago to the team just kind of giving an update,” said Milanovich, “And in that letter, I was hopeful that we’d be able to start on time. Of course, that was before all the stuff that’s come out the last two weeks.
“So I’m kind of learning along the way and just being transparent with them. Nobody really seems to know, I don’t think, how this whole thing is going to sort out. So I’ve just kind of been checking in on them, making sure they are finding a way to work out, even if it’s just in their house.”
The key message: “Just try to be ready whenever the time comes,” Milanovich said. “If it comes.”
The only saving grace is every player and coach on ever team in every professional sport is in the same boat at the moment.
“It’s probably harder for the players because of the whole workout scenario,” he said. “For a while, they were still able to get to the gyms. Now they’re in the basement working out with whatever weights they have.
“For us coaches, I was fortunate. We had our big meetings prior to this whole incident, so we were pretty well stared. We’re pretty much done with the playbook and with all the scripts for training camp. And really, right now, myself and the coaches and Brock (Sunderland, general manager) and his staff are working on preparing for the draft.”
It hasn’t been as smooth a ride for everyone in the club. On Friday, CFL broadcast partner TSN reported the Eskimos were the latest team to lay off front office and football operations staff , though none of Milanovich’s newly assembled coaching staff was said to have been affected.
And the focus remains on the CFL National Draft April 30, where his Eskimos hold the fourth-overall pick in a year where the league’s main combine in Toronto, as well as its regional offshoots in Edmonton and Montreal, had to be cancelled and training camps pushed back.
As for the rest of the season, the only sure thing is uncertainty at the moment.
“What I’ve been told is there are contingency plans and we’re looking at everything,” Milanovich said. “Everybody wants to have a season, but I’m not privy to the details of exactly what it is that’s going on.”
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
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