TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers starting left tackle Donovan Smith, the man responsible for protecting Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady‘s blind side, said Friday morning that “risking my health, as well as my family’s health, does not seem like a risk worth taking” by playing during the coronavirus pandemic.
In an Instagram post addressed to the NFL and NFLPA, Smith, who is expecting his first child in three weeks, raised many concerns about how he and teammates are supposed to protect themselves and their families and about the NFL’s testing protocols. He also questioned the NFL’s proposal to slash 35% of player salaries due to lost revenue.
NFL players are set to report to training camps on July 28. The state of Florida — which has been one of the more aggressive states reopening — is seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases, with 244,151 positive cases as of Friday morning, up 11,385 from the previous day, with 4,102 total deaths.
“The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort,” Smith wrote. “Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in 3 weeks, I can’t help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter.
“How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household? Yes, we can get tested every day, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it?
“The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many ‘hows’ that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family. I just can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times.”
Smith, who has missed just one game and start in five seasons with the Bucs, also advocated for raising player salaries, rather than reducing them, because of the risks they’ll be taking each time they not only practice, but enter team facilities and play.
“Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn’t right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut,” Smith said. “I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”
Nate Solder, the player rep for the New York Giants, also questioned the risk of playing, saying in a tweet: “If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple.”