We may all be getting sick of hearing about it, but COVID-19 continues to be a high hurdle for the Jets and all pro sports teams to overcome in this year of the virus.
"Nothing is going to be easy for any team this year. It's going to be tough," head coach Adam Gase said this week. "It's about everybody as an organization — staff, coaches, players, everybody — doing the right thing, not only in the building but outside of the building. So it's all going to be about what teams can stay the healthiest, and really that's going to be our focus this entire training camp."
That focus began with Jets players reporting to the Atlantic Health Training Center on Tuesday, all of them for the first time in several months and many of them for the first time since they left the premises the day after the 2019 season ended. QB Sam Darnold was at the head of the line.
"I was one of the first ones to get testing with the early report date for quarterbacks and rookies," Darnold said. "I'm very excited to be back and to get going and start seeing the guys as they trickle in."
He added that he had no apprehension about getting camp and the season started during the pandemic. "For my situation, just living in an apartment by myself, I was just very eager to get things going," he said. "I'm just very pumped to be here, be in the building finally and get to see my teammates, too."
Gase offered a general outline for his team as they build up toward taking to the fields in Florham Park, NJ.
"We're going to maximize the time we do have available to us here," the coach said. "We have a lot of meeting time. We've covered a lot already this offseason — our participation was phenomenal. I feel like our guys did a great job of being interactive, they figured out a way to get the information they need and absorb it in the virtual meetings that we've had. We'll continue with our virtual meetings as it is and be able to implement walkthroughs. And once we get going at practice, we are going to have to kind of see how everything falls into place."
To be sure, practices under the protocols the Jets have developed in conjunction with the NFL and the NFLPA will present some new wrinkles. But one thing can't change, which Darnold detailed in response to a question from ESPN's Rich Cimini on Tuesday.
"I think no one really knows right now what anything is going to look like outside of coming here, reporting, testing," Darnold said. "And I think with huddling, if we want to have a season — which we do, and all the fans want a season, you guys [media] want us to have a season — we're going to have to huddle like we normally do."
That comes down to teammates having faith in each other to do the right things in trying to keep COVID-19 at bay, as Gase and general manager Joe Douglas have also said this week.
"I think we've just got to trust the fact that everyone's staying safe," Darnold said. "We'll be getting tested every day, and we've just got to trust each other that no one is going out and seeing people that they shouldn't see and people that haven't been tested."
"It's going to take a group effort," Douglas said. "And it starts with being responsible and making smart decisions in regards to the obstacle we're facing in COVID and putting the work in together as a unit and a team."
This year's training camp is the great unknown for everyone in the NFL. It's still football, yet it's football with any number of viral twists, and those potential bends in the road have yet to be revealed.
"I'm just not sure if anyone really knows what anything is going to look like right now," Darnold said, "but I guess we'll find that out in a few weeks."