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Malcolm Jenkins Reminds NFL Is ‘Non-Essential’ But Trusts League’s Safety Standards Will Be High

The other day, I posed the question if whether or not there would be players, or coaches, who elect not to participate in the NFL’s 2020 season over health concerns stemming from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Yesterday marked a new high in single-day new cases, topping 40,000 in a 24-hour period, with hotspots in Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona.

That was what New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins touched on lately when he appeared on CNN to discuss the state of the NFL amid a pandemic and whether or not it would be safe to return to play. He talked about the differences between the NFL and, for example, the NBA, with the impracticality of attempting to place thousands of players and coaches in a bubble.

“We’re gonna end up being on this kind of trust system”, he said, “where we just have to hope that guys are social distancing and things like that, and that puts all of us at risk. Not only us as players and who’s in the building, but when you go home to your families”.

“I have parents that I don’t want to get sick”, he added, “and until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to the point as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a non-essential business. We don’t need to do it. So the risk has to be eliminated before I would feel comfortable going back”.

Jenkins’ remarks drew some criticism from those who felt that he was being overly alarmist, and overly critical of the NFL and their policies, which remain an ongoing process to put in place. In reality, however, there are numerous examples that illustrate the point that he’s making.

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of an entire family of 18 that attended a surprise party or came in contact with those who did contracting the coronavirus. Three are hospitalized, with two elderly parents not doing well. That is the type of concern that Jenkins is expressing.

Still, Jenkins felt compelled to post a short follow-up video to give more context to the snippet of his appearance on CNN that blew up. “To be clear, I want to play football”, he opened. “I think all my peers want to play football. It’s how we make a living”. But he said there is so much that remains that we don’t yet understand.

“There’s so much that we don’t know at this point, but I do know that the bar for the NFL is gonna be high when it comes to creating a safe work environment”, he continued, “and making it as safe as possible for guys to come back, as we keep in mind, it’s not just about the athletes and their health, or the coaches and staff, but our families, too”.

Jenkins is a typically outspoken player, but you can be sure that he is not the only one in the NFL who feels this way and is having similar thoughts. That’s why the NFL and NFLPA are having lengthy conversations about what is necessary to create a safe work environment—and why they are now discouraging players from working out together on their own.

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