Mitchell Schwartz Stresses Off-Field Discipline to Younger Players

Tucker D. Franklin

As the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL take the necessary steps to ensure player safety from COVID-19, they hope they can learn from the MLB’s shortcomings heading into the 2020 season.

Unlike the NBA, MLS or NHL, the NFL — as of now — plans to play its season as scheduled without a “bubble” city or cities, leaving the extracurricular decision-making to the players.

Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz talked about his message to the younger players about discipline outside of the facility as a veteran in the locker room during a video conference with reporters Thursday.

“It’s hard to control that obviously,” Schwartz said. “I think that the biggest thing is going through the meetings and seeing the steps that have to happen if a guy does get COVID-19, all of a sudden all of the people that he’s been around need to quarantine for a certain amount of time. One guy testing positive could have this huge spill off where a certain amount of people then has to go away for five days. There are always steps in the process where you realize that one single test can have an effect on our football team for multiple weeks, especially once we get into the season.”

Kansas City Chiefs Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance Rick Burkholder has been implementing the NFL’s COVID-19 safety protocols around the facility as the team is beginning training camp. But the team can’t control what the players do outside of the team’s property.

“I think that was one of the biggest things that people realized,” Schwartz said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, I have it. I have to sit out for two weeks. It’ll be okay.’ It’s, ‘I have it and these other people could be affected, and now it’s this debilitating thing.’ Kind of like we saw with the Miami Marlins where one person had it and then a whole team gets it.”

Only a few days into the MLB season — the only active sport not using a “bubble” like the NFL would — the Miami Marlins experienced a coronavirus outbreak that has caused multiple games to be postponed and put the MLB’s season in danger.

As of July 28, the NFL had found 107 cases of COVID-19 this offseason with 21 new cases coming during pre-training camp testing.

Two head coaches, Philadelphia Eagles Doug Peterson and New Orleans Saints Sean Payton, have tested positive for COVID-19 with Peterson’s result being the first from a coach since training camp started.

Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and running back Damien Williams have already opted out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns.

As of August 2, 39 NFL players have opted out with eight New England Patriots choosing to forgo the season.

“I think we all realize how important it is,” Schwartz said. “It’s going to take a lot of self-discipline to make sure we’re doing the right thing away from the building. In the building, it’s easier than anything else. You see signs everywhere and everyone else is wearing a mask. These guys have done such a great job of setting us up for success here. It’s going to take that kind of discipline away from the building as well.”

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