As the NFL continues to push through with its season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, cornerback Jason McCourty and the New England Patriots have already experienced multiple scares before Week 5. While the NFL and NFL Players Association have tried to make things work, it has come with plenty of fair criticism.
When Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 3, the NFL postponed the Patriots-Kansas City Chiefs game by a day. Despite Newton being a leader and around the team constantly. The game was only postponed 24 hours and the league’s consideration for the incubation period called into question.
While the game went off without a hitch, things took a turn two days later when Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for the coronavirus. Not only did Gilmore come in close contact with players during the Week 4 game, he also shook hands with Patrick Mahomes after the loss. It was the very thing many feared would happen when the NFL ignored CDC protocols.
Now, with the Patriots dealing with even more fallout from their COVID-19 cases, McCourty is calling out the NFL and NFLPA for its failure to protect players.
Jason McCourty: NFL, NFLPA “don’t care” about player safety during COVID-19 pandemic
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, after Patriots’ players were kept away from the team facility throughout the week, McCourty didn’t hold back. When asked about if players feel like the NFL and players’ union are looking out for their best interests, the Patriots’ captain was direct with his criticism and the reality of the situation.
The NFL received praise this summer for creating strict COVID-19 protocols, implementing daily testing and avoiding any issues for the first three weeks. However, everything took a turn before Week 4 and the ripple effects have impacted the season.
Gilmore reportedly had dinner with Newton on Oct. 2, putting him at greater risk of contracting the virus before Monday’s game. While he tested negatively in the first three days, the coronavirus’s incubation period is 2-14 days.
Instead of automatically putting Gilmore and every other player who came in close and frequent proximity to Newton, the Patriots took two planes and separated those in close contact with the quarterback. This happened because the NFL required New England to play and travel, just two days after a new case.
It’s led to many, including McCourty, to question whether or not the NFL and NFLPA are even taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously given the blatant disregard for the incubation period.
Even after that instance, it seems the league is still willing to take chances. The Tennessee Titans had three new cases this week, but will be allowed to play on Tuesday against the Buffalo Bills. The Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to play Sunday, despite a strength and conditioning coach reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.
All of this is particularly ironic given the NFL and NFLPA are investigating the Titans for repeatedly violating COVID-19 protocols.