I think that most would agree the state of the 2020 NFL season is hanging in the balance right now. Perhaps it can be said that it will be like that throughout its duration. Why? Because so much regarding the NFL’s ability to successfully execute the season will rely upon hundreds and hundreds of people consistently exercising personal responsibility that has never been an issue before.
The NFL can lay out all the guidelines that it wants to in an effort to try to curb players from engaging in high-risk behavior, the discipline for which would basically consist of fines and a forced quarantine—and a possible revocation of guaranteed status for certain money—but it’s ultimately up to the players and coaches and everyone else involved to keep themselves safe throughout the course of the next several months.
It doesn’t take a veteran or even an older individual to understand this. Pittsburgh Steelers third-round rookie outside linebacker Alex Highsmith expressed a very mature attitude on this topic when he spoke to the media yesterday, and was asked about his concerns about the season and restrictions on his off-field actions.
“For me, off the field, I’m not someone who really goes out”, he said. “I am a social guy, but, you know, I’m now someone who’s gonna put myself in a bad position that would ruin my opportunity that I have right now. I’m not really a guy who goes out to parties and goes out to stuff like that”.
“At the end of the day, right now, football is the most important thing, and I’m not gonna jeopardize this opportunity by going out and putting myself and others at risk”, he continued. “I’ve got to think about that as well. Not only am I putting myself at risk if I go out and do something around a lot of people, but I’m also putting all the guys and everyone on the staff here at risk as well. So really just putting others before myself is kind of the mindset that I’m having”.
While social distancing and virtual work will be implemented as much as possible throughout the process, there is no getting around the fact that football is a contact sport. Highsmith should know. He has had plenty of contact over the course of his college career, including a heaping helping of sacks last season for Charlotte.
The 22-year-old is a rookie trying to break into the most competitive league in his sport, having not had the benefit of a traditional offseason. While his particular position leaves room for a role if he earns one, and potentially even a shot at a starting job after this season, he knows that he is beginning from the bottom rung of the ladder, and he’s not about to take a misstep and risk falling off the path he’s been provided.