The coronavirus pandemic certainly has obviously changed how we all live. As the sports world starts to slowly adapt to life during a pandemic, the NFL will differ from a few of the other major leagues in that there is no bubble to work within. Instead, daily testing combined with new pieces of technology will hopefully prevent the virus spreading rapidly within one team.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 training camp now underway, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked during his first media session to reveal how he stresses to young players who might not ultimately be part of the team six weeks from now that that their off-the-field decisions made now could severely impact the team on the field later. His response was perfectly blunt and without any minced word.
“You message it thoughtfully,” Tomlin said. “You use catchphrases, and you guys know I like catchphrases. What you are talking about is conduct that is detrimental, and that is a term that is used often in our business and appropriately so. Because in this COVID environment, if you are not exercising discretion and being
thoughtful about how you move, that conduct is detrimental to your cause and ours collectively. That is the message that I am delivering to those guys. We have to conduct ourselves accordingly. There has been a lot of work to position ourselves to be where we are right now. It is one fail; all fail in this environment.”
As of Thursday morning, the Steelers have had to place two players, defensive pack Arrion Springs and cornerback Justin Layne, on the newly created Reserve/COVID-19 list. That doesn’t necessarily mean that either player has tested positive for the virus, however, as they could also land on the list and need to be quarantined if recently in close contact with an infected person or persons. Regardless, both players are likely to remain on that list for a few weeks at a minimum.
According to recently leaked NFLPA memo, players who contract the coronavirus through “high-risk” activities potentially face team discipline and loss of a pay. The memo states within it that NFL teams can challenge a players’ designation as a football related injury if it can prove that the player contracted COVID-19 through engaging in high risk conduct.
While no NFL team operates underneath a bubble, hopefully most of the players will act as if they are and thus limit their exposure to people outside of organization as much as possible. That’s certainly tough to do as a whole so it will be interesting to watch a team like the Steelers continue to work through training camp and see if many more players wind up being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list between now and the start of the regular season.
“We are going to continue to package the messaging that way and be very transparent,” Tomlin said Thursday. “It is that, it is conduct detrimental to their efforts and ours.”
In short, ‘One fail; all fail’ is sure to be a Tomlin catchphrase that the 2020 Steelers hear repeatedly throughout the rest of the offseason and beyond. Steelers rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool sure sounds like he’s been hearing that Tomlin catchphrase quite a bit so far.
“Coach (Mike) Tomlin’s main point for me and the team is ‘don’t be the guy.’ Don’t be the guy who messes up in a pretty simple situation where it’s easy not to mess up,” Claypool said on Thursday. “You just follow the steps and the things they laid out for you and you will be fine. Just don’t be the guy.”