Former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Bill Cowher revealed he and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this year, he told The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette.
According to the report, he and his wife Veronica experienced symptoms in March after returning home from Hawaii. They weren’t tested at the time but came up positive in an antibody test in April.
Cowher offered his thoughts on how the NFL will handle a likely spike in COVID cases as teams report for training camp and attempt to begin their season.
“I still think we have a long way to go,” he said via Pro Football Talk. “It’s going to come down to the league and the NFLPA feeling comfortable moving forward, and even within that, if they come up with a set of guidelines, and now a player who doesn’t feel comfortable, he may not want to be part of it. It affects people differently not only from a physical standpoint but from a mental standpoint. . . . I think we have to respect that.”
The question isn’t if players will test positive but how many and how teams and the league attempt to mitigate that number. Other sports can be the NFL’s guide. The NHL and NBA have had around a 5% positive rate for players returning to finish off the season. Extrapolate that out across the NFL summer rosters, 2880 total players, and you’d have 144 players. Mike Tomlin said two Steelers tested positive for the virus earlier in the year. Both have recovered.
The number of cases could jump during the season. How leagues handle that could be their biggest challenge, as we wrote about last month.
As baseball has shown, some players may ultimately not feel comfortable playing. In the MLB, several players have decided to opt out – Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Leake are two of the four players who’ve already decided to skip the 2020 season. The NFL’s yet to put in any provision for players who are higher risk or don’t feel comfortable coming back to football.