Football is the ultimate team sport, arguably the most complicated team sport that is widely played in terms of the planning and strategizing behind the actual play on the field. Every play is carefully orchestrated to move 11 players at a time in unison to reach a common goal.
But like everything else, the NFL is made up of individuals, people who live their own lives, their own experiences, and with that come their own opinions. That is a process that has to be respected as we wade through the evident chaos that is the formulation of return-to-play protocols, currently being debated between the NFL and the NFLPA.
While it seems that the bulk of the safety measurements have been agreed to in principle, there are still a number of outstanding issues, including out opt-out clauses are going to work, and which players will be able to qualify for an exemption.
The decision about whether or not to play has to be respected as a personal one, because everyone lives a unique set of circumstances, and that was the point that Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Zach Banner emphasized when he spoke to The Fan and talked about his own desire to get back to football.
“Me personally, I speak for myself and that’s very, very important because I don’t want this to be spread as what we’re are all thinking”, he said. “Me personally, I’m ready to show up to work next week. I don’t want to have any conflicting thoughts with my brothers because I understand what they’re saying”.
“I strongly don’t want to be the guy that is a distraction if we do get moving in the right direction”, he would further detail. “I’m more in a follower position when it comes to things like that so I’m ready to show up this week”.
The Steelers, along with most of the league, are officially scheduled to begin reporting for training camp on Tuesday, the 28th, though they won’t really be in the facility right away. The first day is for testing, which will follow a three-day self-quarantining period after which they will be tested for a second time. If they test negative both times, they will be permitted into the building, but actual on-field work would still be some time off.
For Banner, 2020 is a critical year. He is entering his fourth season after finally gaining some meaningful playing time last year, logging over 200 snaps as a sixth lineman. He is slated to compete with Matt Feiler and Chukwuma Okorafor for the starting right tackle job as unrestricted free agency looms in 2021.
That is only further added motivation for him in his desire to show up and get back to doing what it is he loves to do. But he knows that some of the over 2000-plus players in the league are in different situations in their lives, and in their family’s lives, and that that may see them draw different conclusions about the role of football for them in 2020.