COVID-19 Prevention Latest Championship Opportunity for Pete Carroll, Seahawks
SEATTLE, WA - With players only reporting for training camp a week ago, it's still very early in the process as the Seahawks and the rest of the NFL try to kick off the 2020 season during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But so far, Seattle has gotten off to a strong start in unprecedented times. Following four days of initial testing, coach Pete Carroll's squad hasn't had a single positive test and no players have been designated for the COVID-19 reserve list. Only one player - guard Chance Warmack - has chosen to opt out of the season.
"The first week was all but perfect for us," Carroll told reporters on Monday.
During the first week, players tested three times in a four-day span and weren't allowed into the Seahawks team facility. There weren't any formal practices taking place on the field and won't be until mid-August, as the team transitioned into a strength and conditioning phase this week while maintaining daily testing.
In order for football to be played this fall, players, coaches, and team personnel won't have any margin for error when it comes to slipping up on social distancing, wearing masks, and being tested regularly. Miscues on any of those front could lead to a mass infection and an abrupt end to the season.
As the foundation of his coaching philosophy, it shouldn't be surprising that Carroll is attacking this health crisis with the same competitive flair he preaches on the football field. Both on a personal and team-related level, he knows beating the virus won't be an easy task and will require incredible discipline from everyone involved.
As he preaches every week during the regular season, it's just another championship opportunity for the Seahawks.
“This is a very treacherous thing everybody’s dealing with,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to hopefully have good fortune along the way, as well as great discipline."
Set to turn 69 years old in September, Carroll doesn't look or behave like the NFL's oldest coach. Given his age, he's in the most vulnerable demographic group when it comes to combating this virus.
But while he and his wife understand the seriousness of the situation at hand - two other NFL coaches in Sean Payton and Doug Pederson have had the virus - and have done their due diligence learning everything they can about COVID-19, if he does somehow contract the disease, he will take it as just another "personal challenge."
“It ain’t easy to put up with all the discomfort and the newness and the nuances,” Carroll said. “I felt like I better get my act together. I better be really good at this, so that’s what I’ve tried to be... I don’t think it would surprise you that I’m competing my butt off to to do this well."
“If I happen to get this, I’m gonna kick its ass. If I don’t, it’s gonna be because I was able to find a way to luck my way through it.”
While Carroll has been thrilled with how his players and the Seahawks organization as a whole have handled opening training camp amid difficult circumstances, he can't say the same for the lackluster national response that has failed to get the pandemic under control.
With states such as Florida, Texas, and Arizona continuing to deal with widespread infection and record numbers of deaths, Carroll feels the United States has been "too soft" in its efforts to curb the virus.
Specifically, Carroll took a shot at the state of Washington, calling out leadership for not enforcing strict stay-at-home orders a bit longer and rushing to open the economy back up. In doing so, much of the progress being made after the initial February outbreak at a Kirkland nursing home stalled.
“Really disappointed when when it kind of went south in [Washington]," Carroll stated. "We didn’t really stay with it, because our state made a great turnaround from an initial shocking ground-zero story. We lost our edge a little bit here."
As evidenced by the soaring cases across the country, Carroll also thinks people haven't been willing to make the sacrifices necessary to beat the virus. Sounding every bit like a seasoned football coach, he believes the lack of mental toughness is at the heart of the problem.
“It’s about being freaking tough, because this ain’t easy. You gotta be hard on yourself; you gotta give up things you would normally do. I’m no different than anybody else in that regard.”
Moving forward, as illustrated by Major League Baseball's ongoing issues with a few teams being ravaged by infection, the NFL faces a perilous journey trying to orchestrate a full season with COVID-19 far from being stifled. Playing a contact sport will only make things trickier, even if the league benefits from only traveling once a week for games in comparison.
Forever an optimist, however, Carroll has his fingers crossed the Seahawks can take the lead in proving professional sports can return - and last - during the most turbulent period of our lifetime. After a promising initial week, there's at least a sliver of hope the NFL can make it work against steep odds.
"I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. But I hope we set a great example of what it takes to do this, and that six months from now we’re still gonna be involved with this season.”