With the Big 12 announcing it will move forward with its college football season as planned, joining the SEC and the ACC, more and more players will have to decide whether to play in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least one all-time great said that, knowing what he knows now, he almost certainly would have opted out if he were eligible to play college football.
“For me, I think I would’ve gone after the safety of my health first, in the end,” Joe Montana told USA TODAY Sports. “Because we’re not talking about the flu or a cold. This thing is killing people everywhere and not by one or two here and there. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds a day, thousands.”
The difficulty, as Montana sees it, is tempering the wishes of players who want to return to the field, while acknowledging the health risks that come with the novel coronavirus.
Joe Montana starred for Notre Dame in the 1970s. (Photo: USA TODAY Sports)
In many ways, Montana said, he would want the decision on whether to play to be taken out of his hands and made by administrators.
“I think in the end, I hope somebody makes the right decision for them and would’ve made it for me because I’m sure I would be wanting to play,” Montana added.
The Big 12 held a news conference Wednesday announcing a revised schedule for the fall, while the SEC and ACC issued statements Tuesday indicating that both would be monitoring the situation with the plan to play with a delayed start.
Montana, who starred for Notre Dame from 1975-78 before going on to have a storied Hall of Fame career in 16 NFL seasons for the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, acknowledged that even with increased testing and safety measures, the lack of a bubble could present problems.
As an example, he pointed to Major League Baseball, where the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals have had significant outbreaks that forced the postponements of games.
“All I can tell you is look at baseball and baseball isn’t even a contact sport and look at the troubles they’ve had right away in trying to control it,” Montana said. “How many players are on a baseball team? Twenty-something? In college, it’s at least double that, if not more and double that in the NFL. In college you’re talking 70, 80. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you keep them all safe, because as soon as practice is over, they go their own way.”
The NFL is also moving forward with its season as scheduled, with teams across the country well into their training camps. Franchises have implemented testing guidelines and other social distancing and hygiene measures designed to limit the transmission of the virus within the locker room.
And within that, coaches and front offices are trying to develop different ways to get an advantage over their opponents.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, for example, has suggested possibly keeping a third quarterback in quarantine, in case an outbreak would strike his team.
“As much as the quarterback, I’d want to keep the guys in front of the quarterback separate, too,” Montana said. “Because if you lose them, you’re going to lose the quarterback.”
Montana spoke to USA TODAY Sports on behalf of Guinness, which became the official beer of Notre Dame Fighting Irish Alumni and Fans, with Montana as a national ambassador.
Notre Dame was supposed to kick off its season in Ireland against Navy, but the coronavirus pandemic forced the game to at first be moved, and later canceled.
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