If it wasn’t abundantly clear before, the first episode of “Hard Knocks” on Tuesday night did the job.
This NFL season is going to be very, very different.
Not even five minutes in to the season premiere of the annual HBO show — which was centered around both the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers this fall — players were seen asking question after question on a Zoom call with Chargers coach Anthony Lynn. They were wondering how the season is going to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is hanging over the season.
“Be patient man. Be patient,” Lynn responded. “Fellas, this year is not like any year we’ve had in the national football league. There’s going to be chaos. There’s going to be change. It’s going to come every single day.”
Lynn tells team he tested positive for the coronavirus
Lynn then shocked his team.
He had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I can’t promise you you’re not going to get infected. I got infected,” he said, clearly rattling some of his players.
He is at least the third coach in the league to contract the virus, along with New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson. It’s not exactly clear when Lynn contracted the virus, though he had recovered before camp started.
Lynn said one night he started coughing a bit and his body was aching. That night, he struggled to “get comfortable” in his bed.
Lynn said he woke up the next day and started watching a golf tournament and saw a player on the PGA Tour had withdrawn because his body had started aching and had later tested positive.
“I said, ‘S---, my body kinda feels like that,’” he said. “If I hadn’t been watching that golf event and saw that golfer complain about back aches and soreness, I never would’ve even gotten tested and I would’ve had this and never even known it and, s---, probably would’ve got people infected.”
Coronavirus protocols everywhere
There were plenty of coronavirus protocols in place at training camps. Players were seen getting tested and undergoing temperature checks and health questionnaires upon arrival at team facilities. Drink fridges had foot handles on them to eliminate the need to touch the doors instead, and team meetings looked extremely unusual with players spread out across a massive room.
Players, coaches and staff members were seen putting on and taking off masks throughout the episode, too.
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward was pretty uncomfortable getting his test done.
Kneeling during the national anthem
The episode later highlighted a Zoom call between Lynn and some of the Chargers talking about both kneeling during the national anthem in protest and larger social movements in the country.
Lynn said he wanted to address the issue right away in an attempt to eliminate any possible distraction later on.
“There’s some things going on in our country right now that we cannot ignore,” Lynn said. “There are some things some times that are going to challenge the big three, and that’s God, family and football.
“I’m not going to tell you, ‘Let’s sweep this under the rug and we’ll deal with this s--- when the season’s over.’ I’m going to tell you no, we can’t do that right now.”
The segment then featured Chargers players talking about how they feel about national anthem protests. Chargers long snapper Cole Mazza started off by saying that he has family in the military who are “super against” kneeling during the national anthem.
“There’s something that I’m torn between with that,” Mazza said. “I feel like there’s definitely a different way to protest. Like I said, I’m all for it, I just don’t know how much I agree with that.”
Though several players have already committed to kneeling during the anthem this fall, it likely won’t be a universal thing — and everyone in the conversation shown on “Hard Knocks” both understood that and respected that.
“Cole, the bottom line is, in terms of protesting, we all protest differently,” Chargers special teams coordinator George Stewart said. “It’s like we all have different things we eat. You protest in your own way. Just because your teammates are kneeling and you decide to stand, it don’t mean you’re not with your teammates.”
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