The guy most responsible for protecting Tom Brady says he doesn’t feel safe playing football right now.
Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith said Friday on Instagram that trying to do his job amid the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t seem like “a risk worth taking,” especially with his first child due in three weeks.
“With the start of the 2020 season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my co-workers across the league,” Smith wrote. “The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one.
“To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in three weeks, I can’t help but think about how I will be able to go work and take proper precautions around 80+ people every day, then go home to be with my newborn daughter.”
Smith has been among the most durable players in the NFL, never missing a start in his first four seasons and playing in 15 games in 2019.
Perhaps no player is more important on the offensive line since he is entrusted with safeguarding the blind side of Brady.
But Smith points to the slow results of COVID-19 testing and the unavoidable physical nature of the NFL as reasons why he questions how players can remain safe.
“How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing?” Smith posted. “Yes, we can get tested every day, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I’m not spreading the virus or contracting it. The recurring issue here is how? There are too many ‘hows’ that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself but also my family. I can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times.”
Smith also mentioned the NFL’s proposal to defer 35 percent of player salaries this season to help defer the loss of revenue having to play with no fans or limited seating capacity.
“That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut,” Smith said. “I’m not a lab rat or a guinea pig to test theories on. I’m a man, a son, brother, soon to be a father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”
Earlier this week, Bucs coach Bruce Arians said he believed “every player” on the team will contract COVID-19 and worried mostly about playing indoors and poor ventilation in visiting locker rooms.
According to multiple reports, the NFL has presented players with some game-day protocols. Players and coaches will not be required to wear masks but other personnel on the field will. Teams would be forbidden from interactions within 6 feet of each other following games, and jersey exchanges between players would be prohibited.
That drew some criticism from players such as 49ers defensive back Richard Sherman.
“This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell,” Sherman tweeted. “Players can go engage in a full contact game and do it safely. However, it is deemed unsafe for them to exchange jerseys after said game.”
It remains to be determined whether NFL players will be allowed to opt out. The prospects of playing without their starting left tackle to protect Brady’s blind side isn’t a welcome one for the Bucs.