MONTREAL — Super Bowl champion and Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will spend the next few months studying at one of the world's most prestigious universities instead of playing football.
The Canadian addressed the media Wednesday, speaking about his decision to opt out of the 2020 NFL season after spending the past few months as an orderly at a long-term care facility an hour away from Montreal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duvernay-Tardif, from Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., will take online classes at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The 29-year-old McGill University medical school graduate first revealed he would try to take classes in nutrition, biostatistics and epidemiology in an article with Sports Illustrated released Wednesday.
Duvernay-Tardif said it was a "really hard decision" to opt out in July, becoming the first NFL player to do so. He came to the decision after considering his experiences at the long-term care facility, one week before he was due to fly out to Kansas City.
"It kind of made me realize that COVID doesn't just infect people or kill them, it also affects people outside the hospital community, outside the long-term care facility. It put a stress on health care workers," Duvernay-Tardif said.
"I think that really changed my perspective on the virus itself."
The lineman also was not reassured by the rising number of cases in the United States. He adds that putting his fellow players and team personnel at risk after being in the facility was also a factor in opting out.
"That was something that I was struggling with." Duvernay-Tardif said.
The lineman is attempting to do a Master's program in Public Health and will take classes online that will count towards his degree when he officially enters the program in January. The former sixth-round draft choice also says he intends on returning to the long-term care facility where he worked at the height of the pandemic.
He says he will work there twice a week while being in school.
"It was important for me to do something, to get into a program that was going to help me advance my medical curriculum and at the same time continue to contribute on the frontlines of the long-term care facility." Duvernay-Tardif said.
Duvernay-Tardif won a Super Bowl with the Chiefs this past February, before volunteering to help on the medical frontlines. He received his ring earlier this week while he was up north vacationing in Gaspe, Que., alongside family and friends.
He admits it feels "weird" not suiting up for football at this time of year, something he's done since he was a teenager. But the guard will keep tabs on his team from home. He believes the Chiefs can repeat as champions after keeping most of their players on both sides of the ball from last season.
"I have no doubt that we have the potential to go far," he said on the eve of Thursday's season opener against the visiting Houston Texans.
"Obviously, there's always a question of timing and luck because we can't escape injury, and we never know how a season can go. We'll have to see. But at the beginning of the season, if you had to make a bet, I'd make a bet on the Chiefs."
Duvernay-Tardif intends to return to the gridiron with Kansas City in 2021 and says he will keep himself in shape between now and then.
"I'll make sure that my decision of going back to Kansas City is not affected by my physical condition when it comes time to report to OTAs next May." Duvernay-Tardif said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.
Julian McKenzie, The Canadian Press