Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster is recently retired, but he played in the NFL last season while also serving as the Steelers’ NFL Players Association (NFLPA) representative. So he’s a good person to ask about the challenges NFL players are facing when it comes to playing in the COVID-19 era.
In a wide-ranging interview on the Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville this afternoon, Foster talked with co-hosts Jonathan Hutton and Chad Withrow about everything from the impact of coronavirus on college and professional sports to Jeremy Pruitt’s impact on the University of Tennessee football program.
Yet the conversation centered on some of the ways COVID-19 could affect NFL players.
Ramon Foster: Training Solo is ‘Boring,’ Injuries Will be a Problem
For one, Foster said he doesn’t envy the guys who are playing in the NFL this season. “Selfishly, I’m glad I don’t have to go through it this year,” he said.
And while he’s confident that the owners and NFLPA will work hand-in-hand to “figure out the best way to make this [season] happen,” he says many players are no doubt struggling with working out alone, which Foster said he did for his last six years in the league.
“What you have to deal with now is the fact that it gets boring,” Foster said. “I was having my wife come and work out with me … my brother-in-law, anybody who would come and work out with me,” he added, referring to his own offseason experiences.
But he said if he was playing this year, he’d be worried about getting hurt when actual practices get underway, noting that a player’s body has to get used to football movements.
“That’s a big thing, your body has to get trained and hardened for that,” Foster said. “I’m worried about the guys but I’m actually hoping they do get a chance to play.”
‘It’s Going to be Hard to Keep [COVID-19] Out’
Moreover, Foster said he expects it’s going to be a huge challenge to keep COVID-19 out of NFL locker rooms, considering how training camp will begin with 90 players, not to mention the untold number of staff members that surround an NFL team.
“It’s going to be hard to keep it out and it’s going to be hard to point blame at people too…. There are people who’ve had it and had no idea how they got infected by it,” Foster said, noting that he knows people—not necessarily NFL players—who have been affected by the virus.
Most notably, perhaps, Midday 180 co-host Chad Withrow presented Foster with what he described as “the Aaron Rodgers hypothetical,” asking Foster to speculate as to what he thinks might happen if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers were to present with a low-grade fever and test positive for COVID-19 in the run-up to a mid-season division game against, say, the Minnesota Vikings.
“That is heav-vy,” Foster said, drawing out the word for emphasis, calling it “one of the heaviest questions you can ask,” before guessing that with something as serious as COVID-19, “pushing forward” would be unlikely. Yet he suspects Rodgers “would probably get [a] COVID test three or four times that week” before being ruled out for the game.
Foster also speculated that Rodgers wouldn’t be happy about the prospect of being held out.
“Guys will push themselves no matter what, and one of the things I’ve learned, even for myself, is you have to protect the players from themselves,” Foster said. “If [guys] think they can go, they’re gonna go. If you leave it up to your superstar franchise guys, their words hold a little more weight than anyone else’s in the building. Aaron Rodgers would have about three tests before he is actually shut down.”
Asked about what he himself might do if he were in the same position as Aaron Rodgers in Withrow’s hypothetical, Foster said the competitor in him would want to play. “But the union rep in me would probably say, ‘Nah, we’re going to shut this down,’” he said.
“But you know like I know that rules will be broken,” Foster concluded, “and guys will lie because they just want to play.”
Ramon Foster’s Career with the Steelers
Ramon Foster played in 160 games with the Steelers over the course of 11 years, primarily at left guard. He helped Pittsburgh get to the Super Bowl in his second season, and started at right guard in Super Bowl XLV, which the Steelers lost to the Packers. He announced his retirement from the NFL in March of this year.
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