NFL players both eager & anxious to return during pandemic

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Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2019, file photo, Denver Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb looks on during an NFL preseason football game between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers in Denver. Many players polled by The Associated Press over the last couple of weeks say they are scared to return to work without a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus. By and large, however, those same players say they trust the protocols the NFL will have in place by the time practices resume and games return. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

DENVER – Seasonal colds and the flu spread through NFL locker rooms just about every year, sending some players home sick while others slog through practices hoping they’ll feel better by game day.

Last December, the Patriots flew two airplanes to Houston to keep the healthy players apart from sick ones, which included seven starters. On the final weekend of the 2016 season, the Raiders were ravaged by a bug that swept through their entire roster and waylaid hopes of a deep playoff run.

Now, teams have COVID-19 to worry about.

Offseason workout programs have been entirely virtual since the league closed team facilities in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Coaches began returning to their offices Friday but players not seeking treatment for injuries probably won’t be allowed to return until training camps open next month.

Many players polled by The Associated Press say they’re scared to return to work without a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus that has infected millions worldwide and killed more than 100,000 Americans. But they’re putting their trust in the health protocols the NFL’s medical staff is developing for practices to resume and games to return.

Safeguards are expected to include daily temperature checks and frequent virus tests, with sick players quarantined for two weeks.

The only players allowed into team headquarters over the last three months are those rehabbing from serious injuries. One of those is Broncos edge rusher Bradley Chubb, who missed most of last season with a torn knee ligament.

“To be honest, playing football is like my No. 1 goal right now just because of the whole injury thing,” Chubb told The AP, “but I feel like when it comes to the coronavirus, the NFL has great leaders in place to make sure we’re going to be back in the safest way possible. I know these guys are going to come up with a solution.”