When asked about the sudden rash of positive coronavirus tests across the league, Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said that at one point in the offseason he believed the NFL shouldn’t attempt to have a season.
Slay said it wouldn’t be easy for teams to continue to contain the virus and mitigate risk, pointing out it would take every player on the roster staying safe in order to have success.
“It’s not going to be easy, man, it will take all of us,” Slay said. “My true opinion, I felt like we shouldn’t have had [a season] just because of what was going on. It’s a difficult time, but like I said, we’re all making sacrifices and we made them. Other than that, I think our staff and our team and the Eagles are doing a great job of securing us.”
Slay, in his first year with the Eagles, was far from alone in voicing his doubts about an NFL season in the summer, but he never publicly said he didn’t think games should be played. The closest he came was tweeting his concerns about the way the NFL was handling recommendations from the NFL Players' Association as several NFL leaders used the hashtag #WeWantToPlay to encourage the league to work with the NFLPA to establish safe protocols for teams to follow.
“Why isn’t the NFL listening to the recommendation from their own joint committee,” Slay wrote on his Twitter account. “If we want to have a full season it will have to look different. @NFL make the necessary changes.”
Slay later clarified that once he saw the protocols put in place, particularly the safety measures implemented by the Eagles' staff, he was confident a season could happen, and he’s comfortable playing right now.
“The Eagles have been doing a great job of protecting us,” Slay said on Wednesday. "They came up with a great game plan to have us in the building. Before then, I was thinking to myself, ‘How are they going to do this?'
“I had kids, so I had to make sure my kids and my wife were all right and make sure we’re OK,” Slay added.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson echoed Slay’s confidence earlier Wednesday during his news conference. Pederson spoke with reporters just as news surfaced that two more Tennessee Titans players had tested positive for the virus, meaning the team won’t be permitted to return to its practice facility yet. The Titans had eight players test positive last week, leading to the postponement of their Week 4 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore also tested positive Wednesday, joining teammate Cam Newton on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. The Patriots’ game against the Chiefs last weekend was postponed a day because of Newton’s diagnosis.
“I can’t comment too much on other teams,” Pederson said. “I don’t know all the situations, but I do know that there are positive tests. Basically, the message from the league office is just to uphold the protocols in place that we’ve been asked to do. I feel comfortable with what we’ve done, what our players have done. We just took this long road trip, and everything was good.”
Pederson, who tested positive for the coronavirus at the start of training camp, said he will continue to enforce the safety measures with his players and staff moving forward. The Eagles haven’t placed a player on the Reserve/COVID-19 list since before the start of the season, although a handful of players have missed time with undisclosed illnesses unrelated to the virus.
Steelers to have fans
The Steelers will be allowed to host about 5,500 fans at Heinz Field for this Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced an adjustment in the state’s guidelines regarding large gatherings, giving Pittsburgh the freedom to reopen the stadium for a limited number of people. But the Eagles aren’t currently expected to have the same luxury at the Linc for the following Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, as Philadelphia officials have yet to lift the restrictions specific to the city’s coronavirus policies.
“We’re excited that it’s getting closer to maybe having fans even here at the Linc, but having fans at Heinz Field is going to be great," Pederson said. “It’s going to be great for both teams, I think. As we’ve said, players feed off of that emotion and off the crowd.”
Wentz push comes to shove
Carson Wentz was asked about his shove of San Francisco cornerback Dontae Johnson, after they tangled coming off the line when Wentz was split wide while Jalen Hurts took the snap Sunday night. Cris Colinsworth jokingly complimented Wentz during a replay for his work as a tight end.
Wentz said he didn’t know if the ball might be coming his way and he felt he needed to “block my tail off on that one.”
The extra shove?
“There was no whistle. I was just still blocking to the whistle," Wentz said. "That’s what you’re coached to do ever since you’re in little kid football: You play to the whistle, and that’s what I was doing.”