Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif penned Wednesday's Sports Illustrated Daily Cover about his reasoning in being the first NFL player to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
As told to Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop, Duvernay-Tardif discusses the difficult thought process he went through to decide to continue working at a long-term health facility in Montreal or return to Kansas City for a Super Bowl defense.
The Canadian said that, in the beginning, the practice took a toll on him as he was always focused on the negatives.
The first few days, because I had focused only on the medical tasks in front me, I only saw the negatives, all the steps required and how long it took to take them. After my shifts, I would head to an empty apartment that I owned in Montreal, which I used as a sort of transition zone. I would wash all my equipment, take a shower and change clothes before heading to the other apartment, the home that I share with Florence. At first, I would burst into tears, asking things like, What’s the purpose of all this?
Duvernay-Tardif explained he had a mindset change one day in his empty apartment. He used his apartment as a decompression space more than a sanitation zone and he stopped focusing on the negatives and focused on the good people were doing. He mentioned the doctors and nurses he worked with at the facility and the sacrifices they were making.
Conversely, the caretakers were overwhelmed. I knew one couple, one orderly and one nurse, with opposite shifts. The husband (orderly) would work during the day, and then his wife (nurse) would meet him at the hospital, with their six-month-old daughter strapped in a car seat, and he would head in while she would head out. They never saw each other except when they both slept. People like that aren’t part of the equation for how we look at the coronavirus. But the impact on them and their little girl should be.
He began focusing more on the connection with the patients and forging bonds with them while they were away from family and liable to feel alone.
After the team successfully dealt with an outbreak in cases in his facility, Duvernay-Tardif made his decision to stay on the front lines.
I put out a statement as the news of who opted out spread across the NFL. I want to be clear here. My goal was never to oppose the Chiefs, the league or my teammates. I’m not trying to convince anyone else that they should sit out this season. I realize my circumstances could not be more unique. I hope that the public realizes that those very circumstances must inform my decision not to play in 2020, that I can’t ignore my life in medicine.
It’s weird to say this, but I miss camp. I’ve been following on Instagram, and every time I see tight end Travis Kelce laughing and cracking jokes, I want to hop on a plane and fly to Kansas City. I miss the guys. I miss the contact. But I also know I made, for me, the right decision.
Duvernay-Tardif mentioned the comments from head coach Andy Reid and his teammates publically about his decision also helped reaffirm that he made the right choice.
Although he knows he made the right decision to continue to practice medicine instead of practicing football, Duvernay-Tardif said if he hadn't been working at the facility, he would have been back in Kansas City.
Instead of preparing for the Houston Texans this week, Duvernay-Tardif starts online classes at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard with classes targeting "health and social behavior at a population level, nutrition from a global population standpoint, biostatistics and epidemiology."