On Monday we learned that New England Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon—a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011—decided to opt out of playing football this season. The news prompted NFL observers to question whether Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner would follow suit and opt out of playing this year. Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 while in college at the University of Pittsburgh, but recently celebrated four years cancer-free.
James Conner Will Play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020
According to Tom Pelissero, reporter for NFL Network and NFL.com, a source has told him that Conner will play this season.
With Marcus Cannon opting out of the 2020 season today, what about fellow cancer survivor James Conner?
The #Steelers running back is playing, per source. Four years cancer-free and in phenomenal shape entering a big season.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 28, 2020
This confirms what Conner told Heavy.com in an interview last month. Asked if he felt any extra vulnerability to COVID-19 because of his medical history, Conner said: “I don’t. I’ve had talks with my doctors about this. It’s been four years and my immune system is a lot stronger than it was and I’m fully recovered so I’m not worried or scared about working out because of the virus. I believe I’m fully healed and healthy and feel young and healthy.”
James Conner: ‘Fear is a Choice’
Anyway, it seems like Conner’s life experiences would make him emotionally well-prepared to go about his business in the face COVID-19. He’s already had plenty of experience working out and practicing while wearing a mask, and he has already demonstrated the ability to keep his focus, even when the “big picture” looks daunting.
As he notes in his recently published biography, Fear is a Choice: Tackling Life’s Challenges with Dignity, Faith, and Determination, “focusing on the big picture can actually make things seem more overwhelming.”
“Don’t focus on what you’ve lost or how far you have to go,” he writes. “Focus on what it is you want to achieve in order to get to where you want to be. Recognize the process instead of obsessing over the outcome.”
While it’s okay to be scared or feel some trepidation, “feeling fear does not mean you have to live in fear,” he insists. “You can take deliberate action to choose to move away from your worries and toward behaviors that will serve your ultimate purpose more fully.”
That sounds like a great approach to take during a COVID-19 impacted season, which seems certain to reward those players that can remain in the moment—and not think too far ahead.
James Conner a Pending Unrestricted Free Agent in 2021
To be sure, 2020 will be a pivotal season for Conner, as he seems destined to hit unrestricted free agency next spring, arguably one of the top 5 pending unrestricted free agents on the Steelers. He is in the final year of a four-year contract he signed after being selected in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, one of the best drafts in the NFL that year. According to overthecap.com he stands to earn $825,000 this season and count $1,001,572 against Pittsburgh’s salary cap.
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