Training camps have a different feel in this age of COVID-19

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Denver Broncos tight end Nick Vannett, left, greets offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur at the team's NFL football training camp Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – From the antimicrobial mist the Denver Broncos strolled through on their way to the practice fields to the hand-held whistles for masked-up coaches, NFL training camps have a very different look and feel this year.

No fans. No Gatorade buckets. No joint practices.

The league is spending tens of millions of dollars on daily COVID-19 testing, and some of the protocols put in place to navigate the coronavirus crisis have cost some prospects whatever long shot they had at making a roster.

They might have saved a life, however.

Linebacker Cam Smith tested positive for the virus when he reported to the Minnesota Vikings headquarters, and head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman recommended he get an echocardiogram.

Good thing, because the diagnostic follow-up revealed a congenital problem with his heart, which was severely enlarged. Smith is scheduled for open heart surgery on Aug. 24 and will miss the 2020 season.

“I wouldn’t have ever known about this — or as soon as I do now- — without getting tested for COVID and testing positive in that time frame,” Smith said. “It does feel like it’s a blessing in a way that I did test positive.”

The fifth-round pick out of USC last year looks forward to returning in 2021 better than ever “because I’ll be fixed. I’ll be better, and I’ll be in a healthier state than I have been for the past 23 years.”