Collecting an NFL paycheck for the first time is the culmination of a long dream for most football players, and if a player is a highly drafted one, it can also result in a life- and lifestyle-changing amount of money.
For most rookies, it’s also their first time living life out in the world without the assistance of family or the safety net of a college.
Like so many other things, though, 2020 has certainly put a damper on the lifestyle part of things.
With the Steelers getting their off week and a few weeks of six-figure game checks deposited into his bank account, 22-year-old Steelers rookie Chase Claypool hit the town for a big weekend of … playing video games and watching TV.
Given the threat of COVID-19 infection that ended up cancelling the Steelers’ Week 4 game with the Tennessee Titans, that’s about all an NFL player can do an off day right about now, rookie or otherwise.
“Yeah, for the most part, I was just at the house, hanging out, playing video games, watching TV,” Claypool said on Monday after the Steelers returned to work at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the Side South.
Among the highlights of Claypool’s wild weekend included being stuck with the same TV broadcast options as everyone else and being slightly disappointed by his characterization in the league’s newest video game.
“I had a full slate Sunday,” Claypool said. “I watched the games that are available for me. I watched the Browns game then most of the Eagles game. I just was watching just to enjoy football. You want to look at what the guys are doing, but for me, it was more just enjoying watching football on my off day. … My Madden, I filmed a video [Sunday] night. I got the reaction video, so I think I might be posting [Monday night] on my YouTube, but I’m not gonna lie. I was a little disappointed.”
While older players that have been in the city longer or that have families of their own might have more of their lives to tend to, Claypool has been especially isolated due to the pandemic. His parents, back at home in Canada, can’t even come to visit him without spending two weeks in quarantine upon returning to home.
“It’s definitely tough because I know they won’t be able to come to any games this year, unless something crazy happens, because they’d have to go home and quarantine for two weeks,” Claypool said. “That’s a little tough, but I’m used to it. I went to school far away from them and I didn’t see them for long periods of time. So I’m used to it. I just stay in touch with them and I know they’re supporting me back home.”
Having lived in Pittsburgh for just a few months, it’s not like he has a lot of friends here to spend time with, either. And of course, there isn’t a lot to do to get to know his new hometown, either.
“Yeah, I haven’t really been able to see much of the city,” Claypool said. “I’ve been to a couple places to eat but other than that, just really been spending most of the day in my house. The guys are great. I try to get together with the guys off the field every now and then just to just to hang out and keep my sanity. So it’s been good.”
Part of that hanging out with his older teammates involved the team’s rookie dinner, held in modified over the weekend. The rookie dinner usually involves a large, exorbitant dinner where the team’s veterans order the most expensive food and drink on the menu, before leaving the rookies with the bill.
“We got to go on a mini version of the rookie dinner,” Claypool said. “I got stuck with the tab, but it wasn’t too bad.”