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Panthers Cross-Training Players in the Event of Positive Tests

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule preparing for the inevitable

The 2020 NFL season is going to be far from normal, thanks to the pandemic that has taken the world by storm. No mini camp, no preseason games, likely little to no fans in the stands and several protocols have been put in place for team meetings, player workouts, etc. If you think that's enough to drive a coach or player crazy, just wait.

During a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule talked about what the team's plan is if and most likely when a player contracts the virus. How will they handle it? Do they sign another player? Do they roll with what they got? To an extent, they could do a little of both. But is there a possibility that you may see Donte Jackson lineup at running back or receiver? What about Kawann Short playing left guard? Christian McCaffrey at safety? Sounds bogus right? Well, not in the era of COVID-19. Now, Rhule did not mention which specific players could play certain positions, but he did say that they will continue to cross-train players to combat against having a player test positive for the virus.

“When it comes to getting into the season, obviously the NFL has given more flexibility for the roster and I just think it’s one of those things where we’re trying to train everyone and truly teach them the system and then trying to cross-train people. If someone is sick, just like if someone is hurt, who else can do that job and step in? Because we didn’t have a huge offseason, we didn’t have time to really experiment a ton. It’s really more of a time to just train guys and hope and trust that our guys are going to make the best decisions possible." 

There has to be several plans put in place because, as we have all found out, the virus can enter anyone's body - even a perfectly healthy athlete with no underlying medical conditions. Not only the Panthers, but every team in the league is going to have to have players take the extra precautions if they want to make it through an entire season. You can't put yourself in a situation that heightens the risk of contracting the virus. It's going to have to be a lot of go to work, go home, and repeat. That is until we gain control of the virus and reduce the transmission rate. Rhule talked about how important it is going to be for his players to understand how serious this is and to make wise decisions.

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"As I said, this virus, I don’t know that you can naturally prevent it from ever striking someone that you love or someone that you work with. We can make the best decisions possible and the two things we can control is wear masks and then what we do in our off-time, not being in crowded bars and crowded places and all those things. So if we all, as a team and as an organization, can make the best decisions possible, then we give ourselves the best chance. I keep telling all of our young players, all of our rookies and first-year players, that the best thing you can do to help yourself make this team is to be versatile. You’ve gotta be someone who can do a lot of different things and be accountable. Be someone that’s going to do as best as you can to protect yourself for this team from getting sick.”

Of course getting everyone to adhere to the guidelines set forth by the health officials 24/7 is not something that will be easy to do and is not something you can police. We've already seen how easily an outbreak can happen within a team's locker room. Just look at the Miami Marlins for example, who have 18 positive tests as of yesterday, per ESPN. And for a team like Carolina, who is already handicapped with depth and experience on both sides of the ball, it could seriously damage any progress the team hopes to make in 2020, should an outbreak occur. No one is really pegging the Panthers as a contender in the NFC South, but even the smallest version of an outbreak could ruin the Panthers' hopes of taking a step forward in the right direction.

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