Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is known to speak whatever is on his mind even if what he says makes somebody uncomfortable. What the 67-year-old said in a Monday interview with the Tampa Bay Times should make uncomfortable anybody who cares about the 2020 NFL season being played, on schedule or otherwise, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Arians, who retired from coaching in 2017 after a kidney cancer diagnosis before he returned in 2019 to coach the Bucs, spoke with the Times about the personal precautions he will take when and if the season begins. He is worried for players as much if not more than he is for the coaches.
“(81-year-old offensive consultant) Tom (Moore) is probably the healthiest one of all of us,” Arians said. “We’ve got to be careful. The players, they’re going to all get sick, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of how sick they get.”
Arians’ quote about player health and safety appeared in the Times on the same day NFL Players Association president J.C. Tretter published a letter that implores the NFL to “follow the recommendations of its own experts” relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and, among other requests, eliminate preseason games for the 2020 season.
“Every decision this year that prioritizes normalcy over innovation, custom over science or even football over health, significantly reduces our chances of completing the full season,” wrote Tretter, the Browns center. “Since March, we have had hours of return to work meetings, reviewed research and developed detailed protocols — all of which will be wasted if the NFL refuses to think and act differently when it comes to getting through a full season. Players don’t just want to return to work; we want to stay at work.”
Arians could not speak on whatever protocols the league plans to implement in order to make its 2020 season viable; plans on which the clock is ticking as NFL training camps are set to begin in late July. He could only speak on his own and the team’s precautions.
“All my team meetings, we’ll do in the indoor facility like a big auditorium and I’ll use a microphone, which I hate using, but I have to,” Arians said. “If I’m going to take my mask off, I’ve got to be far enough away to get my point across and the Bucs have some big TV screens to put my messages on.
“And we’ll see how the headsets work and stuff talking through a mask. That part of it. And being outside. Being in an indoor stadium, that worries me a bit more. And I’m really concerned about the away hotels and away locker rooms. That’s a big point of emphasis. The ventilation in those locker rooms is terrible with guys getting out of the showers and getting treatment.”
In the context of Arians’ potential vulnerability while coaching during the pandemic, the Times noted a troubling fact: “Until last year, Arians had not ended a season as a head coach without at least one trip to the hospital.” Not including an interim stint with the Colts in 2012, Arians was a head coach for five seasons with the Cardinals from 2013 to 2017. Last year was his first as head coach of the Buccaneers.
In addition to the kidney cancer diagnosis in 2016, Arians was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2007. He also had cancerous cells scraped from his nose in 2013.
“I got to be real careful,” Arians said. “I’ll probably double with a mask and a (face) shield. You know, because l already had my scare out there (in Arizona) once a couple of years ago.
“For me personally, I’ve got a plan and I just have to be smart enough to stay with it.”
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