New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said Thursday he is not yet comfortable with the NFL returning to play amid the current conditions of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to the place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand football is a nonessential business,” Jenkins said on CNN. “So we don’t need to do it. So the risk has to be really eliminated before we — before I would feel comfortable going back.”
Jenkins, who was hired by CNN as a contributor earlier this month, later followed up in a video he posted on Twitter, saying, “To be clear, I want to play football. I think all my peers want to play football. It’s how we make a living. But there’s so much that we don’t know right now.”
His comments come on the same day that the Aug. 6 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game was canceled and the Aug. 8 enshrinement ceremony postponed.
The game was the first NFL event to be canceled outright during the health emergency. Training camps are currently set to begin in late July, with the regular season scheduled to open Sept. 10.
Jenkins said on CNN that the scale of the NFL — with 90-player preseason rosters and extensive coaching staffs — makes it especially difficult to practice and enforce virus safety measures compared to other sports with smaller operations.
“The NBA’s a lot different than the NFL because they can actually quarantine all of their players, or whoever’s going to participate,” he said. “Where we have over 2,000 players, even more coaches and staff — we can’t do that. So we’ll end up being on this kind of trust system, the honor system, where we just have to hope that guys are social distancing and things like that.
“And that puts all of us at risk, not only us as players and who’s in the building, but when you go home to your families. I have parents that I don’t want to get sick.”
He added in his follow-up comments, “I know that the bar for the NFL is gonna be high when it comes to creating a safe work environment and making it as safe as possible for guys to come back.”
A number of players across the NFL have tested positive for COVID-19, including several reported positive tests last week. On Saturday, the NFL Players Association’s medical director, Thom Mayer, advised players not to practice or work out together to avoid spreading the virus.
Jenkins, 32, returned to the Saints — the team that drafted him in the first round in 2009 — this spring after spending six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He is a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee.