TAMPA —Two Bucs players have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to ESPN, less than 48 hours after one of the team’s assistant coaches was reported to have tested positive.
It is unclear whether the unnamed players were among the few who had been allowed inside the Bucs’ facility — only players rehabbing injuries or getting treatment were allowed in the building — but a statement released Saturday by the team said multiple individuals had tested positive.
“We can confirm that there have been individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the AdventHealth Training Center,” the statement said. “We immediately activated our COVID-19 Response Plan and vacated the affected areas, which will remain closed until extensive sanitization is completed. The individuals who may have been exposed have already been notified and are following the established protocols, which include a 14-day quarantine period.”
The Bucs also said that their AdventHealth Training Center will remain open for Phase 1 employees and, citing privacy laws, that names of those who test positive will not be released.
Given that the team expects to begin training camp at the facility in a month and plans for a rookie and quarterbacks camp there starting July 15 — along with the tremendous spike in positive tests throughout Florida, including the bay area — there is reason for concern.
“I’m worried because of my kids,” Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said earlier this week. “I don’t want them to catch anything. But I figure that they’re going to do it the safest way possible if they do have us back and they do start the season on time. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the safest way possible. I’m not really worried about it too much.”
Coach Bruce Arians and his staff returned to the team facility Monday for the first time. They had thermal screenings each time they entered the building and had to wear face masks at all times unless they were in their offices with the door closed. Coaches meetings were moved to the team auditorium to allow for social distancing.
ESPN reported Thursday that a Bucs assistant coach had tested positive for the virus and two other coaches had been quarantined. The coach who tested positive was asymptomatic, ESPN said.
The team facility reopened to employees for the first time on June 10, with most who returned working on the business side. The AdventHealth Training Center opened with several health protocols in place, including one-way hallways and stairwells, and occupancy limits in meeting rooms.
Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and leading member of the White House task force on COVID-19, told CNN that “football may not happen this year” unless players are put in a bubble scenario — such as the NBA plans to do at Disney World — and tested every day, citing another expected wave of cases in the fall.
“I do see what Dr. Fauci said, that’s what basketball is doing, that may be the only way to do it without putting everybody at risk,” Barrett said. “But it would be a lot. It would be hard because we’re all in certain states. There’s so many more people than a basketball team. We’ve all got to figure out the logistics. Whatever it is, if there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s a will, so they’re going to try to make football be played on time. I’m down for it. I’m ready for it, as long as it’s safe, because I don’t want to put my family at risk.”
With players not allowed to train in the facility, the Bucs conducted offseason training activities virtually. But players still worked out together on their own, including new quarterback Tom Brady, who held twice-a-week sessions at Berkeley Prep in Tampa to get in tune with a new set of players on offense. Those workouts were not subject to any league health or safety protocols.
But following Saturday’s news, the NFL Players Association’s medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer, said “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,” Mayer said in a statement released by the union. “We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season, and believe that in the best interest of all players that we advise against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences.”
Saturday was just the latest in a number of positive coronavirus tests involving bay area teams.
With the Lightning preparing for a return to play in hub cities, activities at Amalie Arena were shut down after three players and additional staff members tested positive, the NHL team said Friday.
On the same day, five Phillies players and three staffers were reported to have tested positive, and the Blue Jays were awaiting results on a player who exhibited symptoms, prompting the shutdown of both teams’ facilities in Clearwater and Dunedin, respectively. Major League Baseball also closed all spring sites in Florida and Arizona for a deep cleaning.
Two USF football players also tested positive earlier in the week.
The state announced a single-day record of 4,049 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, including 965 in Tampa Bay. Pinellas County reported a record 285 new cases.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.