“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% 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.”
Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs – Photo by: Getty Images
If Smith does decide to sit, the Bucs would have a gaping hole at one of the most important positions on the team. Tampa Bay did re-sign offensive tackle Josh Wells this offseason, and also drafted rookie Tristan Wirfs with their first pick in this spring’s NFL Draft. But the plan has been to start Wirfs on the right side, replacing Demar Dotson who was allowed to walk after 120 seasons in Tampa Bay, and have Wells as the swing tackle on game days.
Another big question is, if a player decides to sit, will his salary still count against the cap? A league source I spoke with on Friday said that answer is still “up in the air.”
Smith is set to earn $14.5 million in 2020.
Major League Baseball has already seen some players decide to skip the 2020 MLB season, including former Rays star David Price. The NFL will undoubtably also see more players question the safety of playing this year, and likely see some decide to opt-out entirely.
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at email@example.com
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