Malcolm Jenkins

Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins said Thursday, “I think until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a nonessential business.” Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The NFL may be planning to open training camps as scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the Saints’

is seeing cases mount in the sports world and wants greater reassurance that it will be safe for him and his fellow players to return.

The veteran safety said Thursday he would not feel comfortable with NFL games being played during the pandemic if the risk he would be taking not only in terms of his own health, but that of his loved ones as well, appears too great.

Jenkins went on to assert on CNN that football is a “nonessential business.”

Jenkins, 32, is a longtime advocate for players who was hired last week by the network to provide commentary on racial and social issues. With the NBA, to cite one notable comparison, gearing up to resume its season by having all its eligible teams play in a protective bubble of sorts at Disney World, Jenkins pointed out that the larger rosters of the NFL pose a much bigger challenge.

“The NBA is a lot different than the NFL,” he said, “because they can actually quarantine all of their players, or whoever is going to participate. We have over 2,000 players, and even more coaches and staff. We can’t do that.”

“And I think until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a nonessential business. So we don’t need to do it. And so the risk has to be really eliminated before we – before I – would feel comfortable with going back.”

Later on Thursday, Jenkins posted a video to social media in which he said, “To be clear, I want to play football. I think all my peers want to play football. It’s how we make a living. But there’s so much that we don’t know right now and what we look at, what’s happening in the country, cases are going up, deaths are going up.

“We look at what’s happening in college football. Over 41 schools have outbreaks of COVID in their locker rooms after they tried to come back for voluntary workouts. LSU’s got 30 guys that are now in quarantine. We’re watching other sports that will start up before football to see how they’re doing it, what their protocols are and if they’ll work.”

With the NBA moving to a Phase 2 of its plan that had players returning to their teams Tuesday, at least nine players reportedly tested positive for coronavirus, including all-star center Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Malcolm Brogdon, a key contributor to the Indiana Pacers. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast Thursday, “I can tell you for a hundred percent fact: There are more players that have tested positive than have been reported or revealed.”

Some NFL teams are already dealing with positive tests for coronavirus, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose new quarterback, Tom Brady, has not let that deter him from regularly organizing informal practices.

Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott is among those who have contracted the virus, and while he said Wednesday he is back to feeling “good” and “normal,” he is not yet ready to work out and is concerned about the degree to which the NFL has “a lot of moving parts that have to be figured out.”

“I just don’t know how they can keep the players healthy,” Elliot said. “You’ve got to put the health of the players first. And it’s not even so much I would say the players’ health, because I got corona and it didn’t really affect me much. But a lot of people have kids, they may have kids with asthma, their parents or grandparents may live with them.”

The NFL’s chief medical officer, Allen Sills, said Thursday that the league will have “a very, very aggressive testing and surveillance program that will hopefully help us accomplish the goal of identifying anyone who’s infected at the earliest possible stage and being able to isolate them from the rest of the team environment.” He added that some equipment modifications might also be possible, in particular helmet designs that could potentially limit transmission of the virus.

However, the Trump Administration’s top infectious-diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, said last week that the NFL might need to create a “bubble” of its own to have a season this year.

“There’s so much that we don’t know at this point,” Jenkins said Thursday. “But I know that the bar for the NFL is going to be high when it comes to creating a safe work environment and making it as safe as possible for guys to come back.

“And we keep in mind that it’s not just about the athletes, and their health or the coaches and staff, but our families, too.”

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