CLEVELAND, Ohio – As the new president of the NFL Players Association, the Browns center JC Tretter is responsible for helping to allay the fears of fellow NFL players that they will return to the field in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and to help provide a roadmap for how to do it safely. .
It is not an easy task.
Tretter doesn’t have many answers yet, and when one seems plausible, half a dozen more pop up.
“You have to focus on adapting football inside this coronavirus world and not be tempted by the adaptation of coronavirus inside this world,” he said in a statement. a Zoom call with Browns media on Tuesday. “The way the coronavirus has changed the way each industry operates, you cannot expect to kick football and think the virus will kneel down to become all-powerful football.
“You have to look at different ways to make sure people stay healthy. »»
Tretter stressed that football is very different from so many other sports where safe distance is possible, such as baseball and golf.
“It is a contact disease and we play contact sport,” he said. “The way this thing is transmitted is through contact, and that’s what we do for a living. The way we interact with each other at the facility, the workout, the weightlifting and the dining room is us shoulder to shoulder standing side by side and passing things.
“There is a long list of ideas we need to come up with to make this environment safe for us. That’s why there’s going to be a lot of thinking involved. That’s why we have conversations and calls, and we review it every day. “
Although Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed optimism in a note to the teams on Friday that the coaches may return to the team facilities soon and that a number of players may be back next month, Tretter believes that mini-camp is another way out. The virtual period of the interseason program has been extended to May 29 and programs are scheduled to end by June 26. A mini camp seems to be a long delay.
“Not every place has opened yet,” said Tretter. “Obviously, the buildings are just starting to open for non-football staff (from Tuesday). I don’t think we’re there at this point. We just keep watching what new information comes out. In the end, all we need to do is make good decisions and make safe decisions. “
The advantage of the NFL, he said, is that the season doesn’t start for more than three months.
“Many other leagues are trying to figure this out now and are trying to piece it together, and we still have time,” he said. “I would not say that we are at the point where we have to reach an agreement. We will continue to sit back and make sure that we make the right decisions for our players. ”
Tretter acknowledged that there are many players in the NFL who are vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“Obviously, the focus is still on the elderly population and the effects of the virus, but there are a lot of people with underlying illnesses in our league,” he said. “People see professional athletes as this kind of invincible robot where they are always in shape and there is no flaw in their armor, but that is not really the case. There are a lot of guys with underlying conditions and issues that we need to watch out for. This is something that we always try to keep in mind. “
Tretter, who has a more difficult job than perhaps any other NFLPA president in guiding players through this crisis, could not have guessed whether or not there would be football in the fall.
“I really tried to live in two-week increments, and making sure that the virtual off-season negotiations took place and that a good plan was in place was very important to us,” he said. “It was good to do that and put it aside and give everyone a little peace of mind. Obviously there will be another step in trying to understand the season, the training camp and all that.
“This is the problem with this disease, it is a new emerging disease. There is really no reason to live in a lot of different assumptions where you keep going down different rabbit holes and you sort of lose track of now. “
Tretter said the NFLPA had calls almost every two weeks with players and their wives to allow everyone to ask questions not only about football regarding the coronavirus, but also about life.
“What do you recommend I wear to the grocery store?” What should I think about? I saw this on the news – is it true? “Said Tretter. “We have our doctors there, and that way we give everyone the information from a source they can trust and that way there is not that kind of nervousness or worry concerning what is being prepared. ” “
In the midst of all this, Tretter participated in the offseason program and welcomed his new teammates into the family. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan congratulated him for reaching out to rookie tackle left Jedrick Wills and rookie relief center Nick Harris.
“I was fortunate to enter this league to join a room with a lot of really great guys, a lot of older guys who sort of took the kids under their wings and sort of shortened the strings and got them learned to be pros, and I have now entered the part of my career where they were at the time when that is my kind of role, “said Tretter. “I wanted to make sure I congratulated them first. It’s a great day to be drafted and make sure they understand the scale of an achievement and make themselves available if they need anything.
“Obviously, it’s a strange time with everything virtual, so it’s not so normal to go from college to pros where there is still a lot of gray area. You’re not really sure what you should or shouldn’t do at this point. “
Tretter was delighted to add two new starting tackles to Wills and Jack Conklin.
“Jedrick has been great,” said Tretter. “He looks like a really bright kid. He just seems excited to work. I talked to Jack. It’s nice to have another veteran in the room who has been extremely experienced and has had great individual success.
“It was a great addition, too, to be able to just step in and take the system. I think it is sort of built for that. He was a great guy, too, just to put in the room and another great personality. It sort of fits in. “
New Browns masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Browns themed face covers for coronavirus protection for adults and youth, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a pack of 3 ($ 24.99) . All profits from the NFL are donated to the CDC Foundation.
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