Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety and current neurosurgeon Dr. Myron Rolle says it is unsafe for the NFL season start, and that more time is needed before professional football can return in full.
Joining CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, Rolle expressed his concerns as players around the league arrive at team facilities for training camps amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He thinks the best option is to postpone, or even cancel the season all together.
“I do not think it’s safe to return right now,” Rolle told CNN. “I think the NFL should delay the sport or cancel it this year to allow the wonderful women and men on the front lines to really get ahead of this pandemic and make it safe for everyone to come back to the sport.”
Rolle says the safest path for football to return requires a significant reduction in the numbers of cases across the country. While some states have found a way to slow the virus, that is not the case elsewhere, with hotspots in Arizona, Florida and Texas still raging. Rolle added that football is not a sport that necessarily lends itself to social distancing.
“When you have states that are hot beds and players coming from these places, I think it’s very difficult to sort of say, ‘I want to social distance,’ in a sport that’s inherently close,” Rolle explained, citing the “need to be cohesive in the locker room and in the huddle and walk-throughs close together.”
“It’s actually encouraged to be physical. It’s encouraged to have hand fighting at the line of scrimmage to tackle a player,” Rolle continued. “And as a football player, if you’re thinking about trying to keep yourself safe in the midst of a game that inches matter, one step too slow, one step too late, that’s the touchdown. That’s a win versus a loss.”
Rolle also called out the NFL directly, saying that if they really are the American institution and community leader they claim to be, they should be setting an example instead of trying to be the exception. He wants the league to “be a leader at the forefront and put the players’ safety and their families’ safety as a premium.”
“If the NFL wants to be part of the community, I think it needs to be responsible and think about what is actually happening in the community right now,” Rolle said. “A pandemic happening and infection rates going up and hospitalizations occurring, PPE at high demand.”
Drafted in the sixth round out of Florida State back in 2010, Rolle spent time with the Tennessee Titans and Steelers before leaving the NFL to attend medical school in 2013. He is currently a third-year neurosurgeon resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
While the coronavirus situation across the U.S. does not seem to be showing much improvement, the NFL is moving forward as planned. Players arrived at training camp this week, and the league still intends to kick off the 2020 season on Sept. 10 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.