August 03, 2020
On Sunday night, news came down that Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had tested positive for COVID-19, one day before his players were expected to be on the field together for the first time this summer.
Obviously, trying to start a professional sports season, especially one that features over 100 players and coaches intermingling, amid a pandemic isn't without its hurdles. After all, in the last week we've seen Major League Baseball held hostage after an outbreak in the Marlins clubhouse. And now, football will try to follow in baseball's footsteps while avoiding some of the same pitfalls that have made many question if sports should even be played right now.
Several NFL players have already been placed on the special Reserve/COVID list, including a trio of Eagles. And now, their head coach is also unable to participate in the workouts he's scripted as he's currently quarantined (away from his family) in his New Jersey home.
But the positive test hasn't dampened Pederson's spirits, as the head coach believes the protocols in place around the NovaCare Complex are enough to keep players safe inside the building. It's about the things they do outside the building, which is where Pederson believes he contracted the virus, that will be most important.
With assistant head coach Duce Staley now running training camp practices on the field, Pederson took a few moments out on Monday afternoon to speak to members of the Eagles media and discuss his positive test, how the team is adapting without their head coach, what comes next for the Birds and much more. Here's a full transcript of Pederson's session with the media, starting with his opening statement...
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DOUG PEDERSON: "First of all, listen, I appreciate everyone's well-wishes. [I] had a lot of text messages, phone calls the last 24 hours or so. And, listen, I know this virus affects people differently, and I'm very respectful and mindful of that, and I also want everybody to know that I feel great, [my] energy level's high, and really no symptoms whatsoever. I'm very fortunate because I do know and understand that this virus attacks people a little bit differently. I've been in great communication, constant communication, not only with our medical team and doctors, but also my staff and the team itself. And I can still control — I think one of the things that I've learned this offseason is I can still run the team virtually, and that's what I have been able to do today, even yesterday, holding staff meetings, things of that nature, team meetings.
"I also want to reiterate the fact that I'm very comfortable and confident that the protocols we have in place at NovaCare are for the best interest of the football team and all those that enter that building, and it still is a very safe environment. And one of the things that we all need to learn and I need to learn, taking away from this, is obviously we need to protect ourselves when we're in the community away from the building, continue to wash our hands, wear our masks, do the social distancing that the medical teams and doctors have prescribed.
"Obviously, we're taking this very seriously around our building and in our everyday lives, and again, we need to continue to do so. So, we understand that things like this are going to happen, and I've been able to talk with my staff about contingencies, not only with players but also with staff members. I mentioned, I believe last week when we got together about this, that I'm not going to speculate on a timetable for me. I treat it just like players, so I'm not going to speculate on that. When I'm back, I'm back."
It sounds like you know you contracted this outside the complex. Are you pretty confident that's the case, and what gives you that sense?
PEDERSON: "Listen, and respectfully I'm going to say this one time and I'm going to leave it at that. This is something that I don't necessarily want to comment on for myself or speculate on for anyone else, obviously. I'm just going to reiterate the fact that I feel good about the safety of our building and the protocols we have in place. That's one thing that I do know, and obviously going through this has reinforced that for me at this time."
Talking to players yesterday, they said that your message to them was that it's not about one guy. When we talk about the contingency plans for the players, what is your message to them now?
PEDERSON: "That's been my message really all offseason since we went virtual back on March 12th or 13th. The message still is, obviously we have to protect ourselves, not only in and around the building, but outside as well. But you know what, the thing is too, it's never been since I've been in Philadelphia about one guy or one group of guys or whatever. It's been about everybody. This year's no different.
"Obviously I'm fortunate that this is happening at this time of our season, of our training camp, at the beginning and not necessarily say in October or November where you could miss games. It's a matter of just protecting each other, and our goals don't change, obviously. We're going to continue to press forward one day at a time."
Does Duce Staley now take on a bigger role inside the building? And what is going to happen with that kind of structure?
PEDERSON: "I do everything I can virtually. I just finished up a bunch of player meetings, group meetings this morning already. Guys are getting ready for a walkthrough on the field. And, yeah, Duce being the assistant head coach, he just assumes my role with the day-to-day activities inside the building. He and I talk every single morning. I give him, through communication with him, I give him my thoughts on where I'm leading, what I'm thinking, and then he carries that message forward. He's done a great job so far and will continue that going forward."
Are you quarantining from the rest of your family?
PEDERSON: "I'm quarantining away from my family, so I'm making sure I keep my distance from them and, you know, wear my mask, wash my hands, do those things while I'm here at home."
You said last week that there are contingencies for everyone in the organization. How much thought had you put into this possibility and does this change how you're going to plan those contingencies going forward?
PEDERSON: "Great question. For me, I have thought a lot about the contingencies, and this doesn't just happen. Actually, I thought about this quite a bit over the summer, if something like this were to come up not only with me but with any of my staff or any of the players. And this is why I feel really good about my staff, the guys I have in place to carry the torch so to speak in somebody's absence — and, of course, it's my absence at this time. And the same with the players, you know? I guess you treat it just like if a guy were to get hurt and they're going to miss some time. You've got to have the next guy prepared and ready to go and this is no different."
We were talking to some of your late-round picks yesterday, is this a bad year to be a late-round pick?
PEDERSON: "Number 1, I think that this is actually a good time to be a late-round pick and possible a free agent, even these young draft picks. And the reason I say that is because we've already had a week with them on the grass, and they're going to get some really good opportunities here in these next couple of weeks. They're going to learn a lot from the veterans. The way I've got the schedule set up is for them to learn and be successful, and then once we get into the padded portion of training camp is where we really get to see where these guys are.
"So when you have an opportunity like this, for all of us in coaching, it's about coaching everybody up. It's not just about the starters and getting them prepared, which we do every year, but now it's more about getting these young guys — because we really feel like it's going to be these young guys that are going to help us throughout the entire season."
This weekend we saw two starting QBs end up on the Reserve/COVID list. We've talked about it before but have you given any thought to the possibility of quarantining a quarterback, just given the importance of that position?
PEDERSON: "Yeah, it's unfortunate that that happens, and I think we know that these things are going to happen probably throughout the course of the season. If it happens, you hope it happens early enough that you don't get to the regular season. But [these are] conversations that are still ongoing with my staff and offensive guys on staff — you know, Press [Taylor], Rich [Scangarello] and Marty [Mornhinweg], those guys — and haven't decided on anything yet. But it is something to consider as we move forward."
Doug, what rules do you have in place for players when they leave the building?
PEDERSON: "Obviously, I mean, it's typical training camp. We have curfew at 11 [p.m.] at the hotel. The days are filled — we're on a 12-hour workday with the players — and there's not a lot of time at the end of the day. Listen, once they leave the building, they're on their own.
"And it's up to me and my staff and the trainers and the doctors to educate them on the protocols outside the building. This is just a great time for me to be an ambassador and be a leader and really educate our team on how to protect ourselves outside the building."
The Saints sequestered a part of a hotel to kind of control the traffic coming in and out. Have you guys discussed that at all?
PEDERSON: "As you know, we use the Courtyard Marriott down at the Navy Yard as our team hotel during training camp, and these are all things that were negotiated between players and management, and we've actually given the veteran players, who have homes here, the option to stay at the hotel or stay at home — that's part of the agreement. And listen, everybody's situation is different. Everybody wants to protect their families, obviously, and I understand that, so we do give them that option to decide."
You've been following the protocols and all, and you still got the virus, so does that give you any more worry about the NFL successfully completing a season?
PEDERSON: "My confidence hasn't changed at all. I'm extremely optimistic that we're going to play, I'm confident that we're going to play. It's unfortunate though. Like I told my team last night, this virus holds no prejudices, right? It doesn't matter, it can affect any one of us. And I'm sure many of you have had family members or loved ones or people you know affected by this virus, so that part of it doesn't matter. We've got to just abide by the protocols, they're in place for a reason, obviously, for our safety. Our building is a great place to be. It is a safe place to be for our players and coaches and all who are involved. So I'm looking forward [to it]. It's full-steam ahead for me. Obviously, I'm itching to get back in the building at some point and be around our players and get these guys ready for the season."
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