Buccaneers’ Donovan Smith: NFL players’ return to action amid coronavirus pandemic ‘does not seem like a risk worth taking’

In an Instagram post Friday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith expressed concern over the NFL's return plan and the risk of playing football amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While Smith did not say whether he would opt out of the upcoming season, he questioned the safety of returning to play.

"To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort," the post read. "Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking."

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@nfl @nflpa To whom it may concern: With the start of the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, many thoughts and questions roam my mind as I’m sure it does for many of my fellow “coworkers” across the league. The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort. Risking my health as well as my family’s health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in 3 weeks, I can’t help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter. How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferral of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don’t bring COVID-19 back to my household? Yes, we can get tested everyday, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it? The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many “hows” that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family. I just can’t imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times. Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn’t right here. That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut. I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.

A post shared by Donovan Smith (@dsmith_76) on

Smith, who has a baby due in three weeks, worried that because his position requires contact on every play, he would not be able to take proper precautions to ensure he did not bring the virus back to his household.

The NFL recently proposed to the NFLPA that 35 percent of players' 2020 salaries be placed in escrow for the upcoming season. Smith took issue with that proposal, saying, "That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut."

Last week, JC Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns and the president of the NFLPA, criticized the NFL's health and safety protocols, saying the league was "unwilling to prioritize player safety." The NFLPA has also asked for no preseason games to be played to minimize health risks.

With just over two weeks until training camps start, the continued fight over health and safety protocols between the league and its players remains a significant roadblock.

Smith, a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2015 who has been a five-year starter for the Buccaneers, ended his post with a strongly-worded sentiment.

"I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on," Smith said. "I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work."

So let me better understand. Y’all mad because I voiced my concerns for my health, my families health, and newborns health ?

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