Malcolm Jenkins Says He Wouldn't Feel Comfortable Playing Football Until Risk Is 'Eliminated'

Jordan Cohn
June 25, 2020 - 10:05 am

An NBA roster can carry 15 players at any one time. There's a head coach, a few assistant coaches and a trainer that accompany the team to every game. And that's about the size of it -- no pun intended.

An NFL team has more than double the amount of people on an entire NBA sideline on the roster of players alone. Add in coaches, trainers, doctors, equipment staff, cheerleaders, ball boys and ball girls... you're looking at triple digits. And this is just one facet of an NFL return that worries star safety Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints.

"The NBA is a lot different than the NFL because they can actually quarantine all of their players, or whoever is going to participate," Jenkins said on CNN Thursday morning, where he now contributes as a correspondent (h/t My Sports Update).

"We have over 2,000 players, even more coaches and staff.. we can't do that. And so we end up kind of being on this trust system... where we just have to hope that guys are social distancing and things like that, and that puts all of us at risk. Not only us as players and who's in the building, but when you go home to your families."

While the NBA has enforced a strict system at Disney's Wide World of Sports complexes, where no players will be allowed to leave the campus throughout the season in an attempt to create a bubble atmosphere, it doesn't seem realistic to think that the NFL would be able to find a large enough space to accommodate this. And it's not like NBA players are responding to these rules with glee. Many have expressed concern with the "restrictive and isolated nature" of the league's setting in order to ensure safety, and some players are choosing not to participate at all (via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN).

MLB's return holds similar questions in terms of having to trust teammates. Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals spoke on Jomboy's "Talkin' Baseball" podcast earlier in the year and expressed the same concerns.

"Ok, so we're just going to kind of let guys roam around when they're at home and hope that they're following protocol?" Flaherty said. "That comes down to being a team and having a talk and discussion of... look, this is our circle, don't break the circle."

Jenkins additionally follows a line of logic which holds that the NFL can't be seen as an essential operation compared to other businesses.

"I think until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a non-essential business," Jenkins said.

The NFLPA's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, said something along these lines back in April. From an article I wrote on the matter earlier in the year:

"I don’t think that anyone in our larger community should suffer simply because we want football to proceed on time,” Smith said on an episode of the "Debriefing the Briefing" podcast (h/t SBJYahoo! Sports). “At its core, whether it was the beginning of the league year or offseason workouts or the draft, you have to start with a supposition that none of those three things are essential.”

Smith also acknowledged that an NFL return would be unlikely unless there was definitive evidence of "declining infection rates, declining deaths and widespread testing," and/or unless health officials approved a return plan (via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal).

COVID-19 cases are not declining; as a matter of fact, they're going in quite the opposite direction right now in more than a few major cities, including Orlando, where the NBA and MLS are scheduled to restart. And health officials are not advocating for an NFL return. In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci just spoke on why he didn't think he could see a season playing out in 2020 (video at the top of the article).

Jenkins has taken all of this into consideration, and he's just not on board with rushing a return.

"The risk has to be, really, eliminated before I would feel comfortable with going back."

Can you blame him?

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