Do the Seahawks really have a secret edge in navigating the challenging path this NFL season will require in the age of COVID-19?
Maybe so, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner said during a Zoom video call with reporters Wednesday.
“Luckily, we are in Seattle, so there’s not really clubs or things of that nature for us to go to,” Wagner said.
It was a lighthearted sentiment during a discussion of a heavy topic that hovers over the NFL as it attempts to get its season going. Specifically, can the league and its players avoid massive outbreaks that might cause the season to be shortened or curtailed?
Teams are already embarking on a decidedly different training camp aimed at getting players to the regular season healthy.
Wagner spoke as Seahawks players headed to the VMAC for a second day of COVID-19 testing. Then it was back to get in front of a computer for more virtual meetings in the afternoon.
Players will have a quarantine day Thursday, then another test Friday. If players test negative all three days, they are allowed in the building for physicals Saturday and Sunday and an eight-day strength and conditioning period that starts Monday. There’s no real football activity until Aug. 12.
If many wonder if the NFL can pull it off, Wagner said he doesn’t.
“I’m not concerned” that the NFL’s protocols will work and that the season will be played, he said.
Not that it will be easy.
Wagner’s comment about Seattle’s nightlife came in relation to a question about players and how they will handle their down time.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to be a lot of self-discipline,” Wagner said.
That’s not so hard during training camp, when teams have 10:30 p.m. bed checks at players’ hotels.
Players figure to be resigned to never leaving the team’s site during road trips this year. There won’t be any free time for sightseeing in Atlanta before the Seahawks’ scheduled Sept. 13 opener against the Falcons.
Walls of hotel rooms, buses and planes and the stadiums are about all that NFL players will see on the road this season.
But, as Wagner said, “You’ve got to be by yourself at some point.”
And it’s then that players will be tested daily in an entirely different way.
The “decisions that you make by yourself, you know it’s going to affect not just yourself and other people, so, you know, a lot of it is is just hoping that we have that discipline, and we have the leadership to, you know, help push that message. And it’s up to everybody around us to follow those messages.”
Wagner says there won’t be any lack of communicating from him or other team leaders, such as Russell Wilson and fellow linebacker K.J. Wright, especially to the team’s younger players.
“I think this year is going to be a year that we’ve never experienced, especially for rookies,” Wagner said. “Rookies don’t even know what to expect going in, and it’s going to be nothing like any of us has seen before. So, I think discipline is gonna be the biggest things. Understanding we’re not going to be able to do the things that we normally do. And we have to think about not just ourselves, but our families, other people’s families and understand you know if we do something reckless or do something that goes against what we’re trying to do. It doesn’t just affect you and your family affects everybody else so we just got to be really smart about it, understand the task at hand, the challenge at hand.”
Team social-justice actions yet to be decided
One storyline once the regular season nears is how teams will demonstrate on the field in efforts to bring awareness to social-justice issues, notably police brutality.
Wagner spoke extensively in the spring about the need for players to make their voices heard, and the Seahawks can be expected to take some sort of action on gamedays this season to draw attention to social justice issues.
But Wagner said nothing has been decided, saying those conversations are best had in person.
“I feel like a lot of the stuff that they will think about doing and things of that nature, that’s stuff that I think you have to be around people,” Wagner said. “That’s not really something that you can really handle over a phone.
“… There’s a lot of guys still trying to figure out how are they going to go about things with with this going on so I think there’s a lot to figure out, to try to plan around and I think we’re going to figure that out as we go.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, 29 players around the league had decided to opt out of the 2020 season for COVID-19 reasons, including one Seahawk — guard Chance Warmack.
Wagner said he hasn’t spoken to any other Seahawks about opting out but said he would understand why anyone might consider it.
“This is a thing that we have not experienced, and you have to think about more than just yourself in a situation and think about your family,” Wagner said. “… So you have to respect the decision for any decision they make whether it’s to play or not to play, especially when it’s centered around family.”