There isn’t a great deal more that you can do as you strive for social distancing than to be the owner of a relatively secluded and large farmstead. Enter James Washington, the third-year wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers who has retreated to what he knows best, outside of football: his family farm.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Washington is plowing fields, pulling weeds, plumbing wells—oh, and running routes, doing sprints, and, by now, likely catching passes, as well. At least that was the plan when he spoke to Teresa Varley for the team’s website.
More than ever before, it is crucial for players that they are able to work out and maintain football activities on their own, since there is currently no other option available to them with team facilities all around the country being closed down to all but essential personnel. Washington would be on his farm, anyway, but he’s working on bringing the practice field to his adjacent crop fields.
“I am always out running sprints in front of the house. I have a big yard and it’s pretty flat”, he told Varley recently for an article on the team’s website about how he is handling the crisis. “Usually I will just run the sprints and then run some routes. I don’t have anyone throwing to me. I am ordering a Jugs machine so I will have an accurate ball every time”.
It seems as though soon just about every skill position player on the roster is going to have their own personal Jugs machine—an automated, programmable machine that ‘tosses’ passes. It’s essential equipment for pass-catchers during practice, and as of last season, has even been mandated for use by defensive backs for the Steelers as of last season.
Last season, Washington caught 44 passes for 735 yards and three touchdowns, doing so while playing the vast majority of the season without the Steelers’ starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. He did spend much of that time with his college quarterback, Mason Rudolph, but he arguably has more success working with Devlin Hodges.
“They may not think I am working on football, but I think some of it translates”, he said of his day-to-day work on the farm, and whatever else he is able to add along the way. “I am still running. I am out in the country, so I go on bike rides too. I am getting conditioning, working on the legs at the same time. I ride seven or eight miles. You may have one or two cars pass you, but you may see more cattle than people”.
Of course, even people in major metropolitan areas are beginning to see some unusual wildlife creep into their neighborhoods thanks to the immense decline of travel over the course of the past month or so. These are certainly interesting times we’re living in. Perhaps not a bad time to own a farm.