Gardner Minshew on Not Contracting COVID-19, "Brutal" Quarantine and Leading Jaguars During a Pandemic
Gardner Minshew II had his outfit picked out, his excitement level was high and he was ready to take on the first day of Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 training camp.
“[Monday] would’ve been like the first day of school, you know. Like had my outfit picked out and everything.”
Instead, he got the dreaded news that has belied many an effort to play sports this year. He was being placed on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list and would have to quarantine for the time being.
“It was brutal dude…had to stay at home, that sucked, missed out on playing with all my friends.”
Minshew was placed on the list on Sunday afternoon, one of two starting quarterbacks in the league to have been. The other was Detroit Lions starter Matthew Stafford.
"The Reserve/COVID-19 list is a new reserve category created by the NFL for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons. Clubs are not permitted to comment on a player’s medical status other than referring to roster status. Clubs may not disclose whether player is in quarantine or is positive for COVID-19," the Jaguars said in a statement on Sunday to provide clarity about the new list.
"Clubs, club personnel, other players and player-agents are not permitted to disclose a player’s reason for placement on Reserve/COVID-19 or a player’s status with regard to such illness. However, players are permitted to disclose their own medical information.”
Since players can provide those details, Minshew had no problem in doing so, starting with the most important: “Did not contract the virus. It took one look at me, ran the other way. Was probably in its best interest.”
This offseason, as Minshew explained to reporters on Tuesday during his first training camp press conference, he and receiver Michael Walker spent time training in Naples, Florida.
“I think we both have the antibodies from staying in Naples. We probably got it down there at the same time, had no symptoms or whatever.”
Following the returns to Jacksonville and undergoing the initial COVID-19 testing for veterans, Walker was flagged during a test, Minshew said Tuesday. As such, Minshew was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Sunday as well, along with three other second-year players.
“I don’t think [Walker] has it again, but just since he failed it and I was around him, I had to sit out too,” explains Minshew.
On Tuesday morning, the Jags moved Minshew and safety Andrew Wingard back to the active roster from the new list. But that day at home in quarantine was a stark reminder for the second-year passer that each person on the roster can affect his teammates during this pandemic.
“So just shows kinda the fragility of this whole thing and how fickle this thing can be. Just being around somebody, if they touch enough people, you can shut down a whole team real quick.
“I told all the guys, ‘we have a responsibility to each other and each other’s families to be safe.’ It’s, sometimes it’s not fun, sometimes it’s not what you want to do but it’s what we need to do to be able to have this season and win the games like we wanna win them.”
Minshew, Walker and Wingard all lived together last season but in considering the “fragility of this whole thing” as Minshew said, the three made a decision this offseason to keep separate whenever possible.
“They’ve moved out this year … you just can’t afford to be around somebody—even if you’re not gonna contract it, you can’t afford sitting out those couple of days. So we’re all just gonna ride it out solo this year," Minshew said.
“We realized what could happen, what could go wrong if one of us failed a test. So did the thing we all agreed was best for us.”
Still, there’s a difference in keeping distance—which Jaguar players are required to do in the facility—and completely sequestering someone. The latter isn’t something Minshew necessarily is a fan of, despite speculation that some teams could do just that with quarterbacks in the season.
“I think that’s definitely something to think about,” he says, before stopping and blowing out a frustrated breath, contemplating what it would mean to have a team’s No. 3 passer kept sequestered during the season.
“That’d be a tough thing to do, to have somebody not practice all year really. I’m not sure what good that would even be if the first two guys got hurt and you have a guy that hasn’t even been practicing. So I don’t know. It’s a decision not for me to make obviously. It’s why the coaches get paid the big bucks and I trust ours to make whatever decision is necessary.”
The Jaguars No. 3 spot will be a training camp battle between Mike Glennon, Josh Dobbs and rookie Jake Luton.
While he’ll leave those decisions up to the coaches, Minshew is going to just do what he can within his own power. Heading into a training camp in which he’s the incumbent—coming off a 6-6 rookie season as a starter—that means putting his focus on improving himself and the team around him, even if it’s in quarantine.
“I think it’s like any other season in some ways but obviously way different in others. I think in the same way, it’s be where your feet are. If I’m here in the building, it’s all I can do till they tell me I have to leave, give it all I have here. And if I can’t be in here, then I’m gonna figure out how to get better at home, how to help our team from home. But hopefully we get everybody healthy, have everybody in the building this whole year.”
In the meantime, he’s back on the field with his Jaguar teammates, off the dreaded COVID-19 list and ready to get started like it’s the first day, even if it’s the second.
“Here we are, we’re back on Tuesday, ready to roll, excited to go play some football.”