Bucs' Donovan Smith Says Playing NFL Games amid COVID-19 Isn't Worth Risk

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2020

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 06: Donovan Smith #76 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts during a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on October 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith questioned whether it's safe to play the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith laid out his concerns Friday in an Instagram post addressed to the NFL and the Players Association:

"With the start of the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I'm sure it does for many of my fellow "coworkers" across the league. The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family's health does not seem like a risk worth taking.

"With my first child due in 3 weeks, I can't help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter. How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don't bring COVID-19 back to my household? Yes, we can get tested everyday, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it? The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many "hows" that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family.

"I just can't imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times. Now to hear that 35 percent of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn't right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on.

"I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work."

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Smith has played 79 of a possible 80 games since the Bucs selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft. He's heading into the second season of a three-year, $41.3 million contract with Tampa.

The 27-year-old Penn State product is slated to protect the blind side for new Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady if he takes part in the 2020 season.

Brady has led informal workouts with members of the Bucs offense despite a warning from the union to avoid those type of activities until the start of training camp.

NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer released a statement June 20 amid similar team gatherings around the country in recent months:

"Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months. We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season, and believe that it is in the best interest of all players that we advise against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences."

COVID-19 cases have continued to surge around the U.S. since that statement was made, with Florida being one of the hotspots.

Meanwhile, the NFL has moved forward with plans to open training camp July 28, though no final decision has been announced about how many preseason games will be played. The league and players association have yet to agree on the opt-out procedures for players.

The regular season is scheduled to kick off Sept. 10 with the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans. The Bucs open by traveling to face the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 13.

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