When there was no pandemic and the doors of the nursing home were open, Pridgeon visited her mother during soccer breaks. He brought sandwiches with butter and chocolate milk for breakfast, and she always knew he would come before he entered the room, probably because the six-foot, 90-kilogram attackers wouldn’t let themselves be touched. Her face beamed every time she saw him, and she almost always said the same thing. “Look, my soccer player is home!”
Pridgeon has not yet played football this season. According to the NFL Players’ Association, he was one of 69 NFL athletes who chose not to participate due to concerns about VIDOC-19. He never thought he would do such a thing, voluntarily skipping soccer season. He thought it would be his year. Perhaps all players in the NFL think this way, they are one step away from a place on the 53 list. Pridgeon would play in the spring and summer. If he hadn’t been distracted, he could have ignored everything else and forgotten how much he missed it.
Peggy Jean White died on March 31 at the age of 60 from VIDOC-19. She had had a difficult life. Her last conversation with her four children was over the phone, but no one knew it would be the last time they would speak to each other. Pridgeon and her siblings kept repeating, “We love you, Mom,” but they weren’t sure if Peggy, whose tubes had burst, heard what they were saying. After the fight, she stood before a handful of mourners to find a funeral home that could accommodate her, because the East Coast had been ravaged by the coronavirus.
Most of his life, Pridgeon played soccer for his mother. He wanted to memorize a new playbook and become the best line player on the team because he realized that was what his mother wanted. He worked with two coaches on Long Island who told him that by mid-summer he would have about 25% body fat. He participated in the Browns’ virtual off-season workouts and trained with a specific goal in mind. “I wanted to play that way,” Pridgeon said.
In early July, Pridgeon traveled to Cleveland to make the jump to training camp. But something wasn’t right. His blood pressure rose and his mind wandered to the worst-case scenarios involving his family and his health.
Pridgeon was not alone in struggling with the risk of playing soccer during the pandemic. Three of the Browns’ attackers were rejected on August 5, and two of them were goalies like Pridgeon. These events, along with the possibility of an outbreak and off-season quarantine, increased Pridgeon’s chances of playing. But on August 6, the last day off, Pridgeon decided he couldn’t do it. He informed Kevin Stefanski of his decision, and the first-year coach came out to talk to him. Stefanski acknowledged that it had been a difficult year for him and said he understood. He told Pridgeon to protect him.
Pridgeon is back in Central Islip, New York, where he lives with his older sister and 10-year-old niece – separated from his team and on the living room couch watching the games.
“Of course I wish I could have been there,” he said. “I can’t look back. It causes stress, which I don’t need.
“I think if someone were in my shoes, they would make the same decision I did.”
Mistake. Film not specified.when he arrived at Browns training camp early last summer, Pridgeon was in top form, his coaches said, and he was ready to play. But then something changed. Jackie Molloy for ESPN
On July 24, as training camp approached and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States exceeded 144,000, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed on a waiver change for the 2020 season. Players with high-risk complications related to VIDOC-19, such as diabetes, cancer or heart problems, can abstain from playing for a year and receive $350,000, while players not considered high-risk can receive a $150,000 allowance from their salaries for 2021 (no credit for the season). All their contracts will be extended until the 2021 season, when the pandemic appears to be under control.
Laurent DuVernay-Tardif, the Kansas City Chiefs’ starting quarterback on the Super Bowl championship team, was the first to resign. DuVernay-Tardif spent several months in a long-term care facility in Canada at the beginning of the pandemic, which gave him a different perspective on how COVID-19 affects not only those infected, but also the people and health care system around them. “I can’t afford to spread the virus in our communities just to play the sport I love,” he said in his announcement. “If I have to take a risk, I’ll take care of the patients.”
His teammate Damien Williams, who ran for 104 yards in the Super Bowl, retired a few days later. Williams’ mother is battling stage 4 cancer, and he didn’t want to put her at risk. Thirty-six players eliminated from the Super Bowl started at least one game in 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Others were like Pridgeon – young, unstarters and unknown. No quarterback, outfielder or kicker decided to play. More than half the team was made up of linemen, players who have few substitutes and are constantly touching, touching and breathing on each other. Linemen are also larger creatures, often weighing more than 300 pounds, which in some cases could be considered co-morbid.
But Dr. Bert Mandelbaum, a specialist in sports medicine and co-chair of the medical department at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Job Institute in Santa Monica, California, said one should not assume any health concerns or motivations. In this unprecedented year when a devastating virus has claimed the lives of more than 425,000 Americans, everyone has a decision to make, and behind each of those decisions is a story.
To address players’ concerns, the NFLPA held a series of “Zoom calls” over the summer. Carl Francis, NFLPA director of communications, said about 2,000 people participated in the calls, which usually lasted two hours. Among the most frequently asked questions were what would happen if a player brought the virus back into his family and the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the athlete’s body. Six months later, none of these questions have been fully answered. Nevertheless, the season has 16 regular season games and playoffs leading up to next week’s Super Bowl.
Mistake. Movie non specified.Kansas City Chiefs guard (and vulgarian) Laurent DuVernay-Tardif was the first NFL player to announce he would be absent for the season. “If I have to take a risk, I’m going to take care of the patients.” Richard Messina for ESPN
“I really didn’t think they would go that far,” said Rolan Milligan, the Indianapolis Colts’ safety chief, who decided to protect his young, high-risk family. “I knew they would probably make it halfway through the season, maybe a little more than halfway. Everyone did a good job and was able to finish the season”.
The New England Patriots have eight players who refuse to play; the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers have none. Francis said he has heard no stories of teams trying to discourage their players from playing or threatening to make the decision against them. Patriots receiver Marquise Lee, who chose not to participate out of concern for her young daughter, said coach Bill Belichick was not upset when he told her the news. He said Belichick called it a “mature decision.”
None of the six respondents said they regretted their decision. These people found meaning in their season without soccer. Lee was there when his daughter Aaliyah said her first paternal words – her first tooth and her first steps. She turns one year old next month and was born just before the pandemic began in the United States. Buffalo Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines, sidelined because his fiancee has cancer and his son has breathing problems, was in real estate. He built a playground in his backyard and watched his children run around. New York Giants co-captain Nate Solder is working with Compassion International on the “Fill the Stadium” initiative, which aims to provide food and medicine to 70,000 economically vulnerable children during a pandemic.
One morning in January, Solder was on the phone when his youngest son told him he had finished his breakfast with a series of small screams. For Solder, a cancer survivor whose 5-year-old son, Hudson, has been battling cancer since birth, a break from the season seemed natural.
But when you give up something so fleeting that you’ve worked so hard for, you can never stop.
“In many ways, I felt like I let my teammates down,” Solder said. “In many ways, I felt like I was letting down the new management. “The fact is, as a 32-year-old NFL player, I don’t have the ability to continue my career at this stage. I just have to trust God and see where He takes me.
“Believe me, it was an internal tension. But when I realized that my family, our kids, my in-laws, my parents and all the ties in our community came first, I just valued people more than my NFL career.”
Error. Movie Name specified.Although specified.his team lost to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in the divisional round, Pridgeon is hoping for a comeback. Jackie Molloy for ESPN
MALCOLM PRIDGEON was 8 years old when his father introduced him to soccer. James Pridgeon met his son at the bus stop after school and they threw a soccer ball in the yard. At first, Malcolm couldn’t play youth soccer. He was told he was too tall. James was also a tall man, about six feet tall, and he worked at night as a street sweeper. Once, when Malcolm was 11, James died of an aneurysm. He was 46 years old.
Malcolm’s mother was devastated. They were in love in high school, and she always said that part of her left with him that day. Two years later, Peggy had a heart attack and a stroke that paralyzed her from the waist down. Malcolm’s sister, Kalisha Harrison, 15 years older, took on the role of matriarch of the family. She tried to work and care for her brothers and mother, but Peggy needed 24-hour care, and her insurance only paid for six hours a day. Eventually it became too much for her and she had to move to a nursing home. She was not happy about it at first, but when her children promised to visit her often and bring her food, she felt comfortable.
When Malcolm was recruited to Ohio State in 2016 after two seasons at Nassau Community College, he was conflicted. He didn’t want to leave, but he wanted to play for one of the best college football programs in the country and knew he had to go. So he drove to Columbus while his mother waited for him. Pridgeon started every game his senior year in 2018 and graduated with a degree in human development and family sciences. When he signed a contract with the Texas recruits the following spring, Kalisha told Peggy that her child was going pro. “It’s not just my child,” Peggy told Kalisha, “it’s our child.”
The Texans provided it in August 2019, and Pridgeon went home, took two days off to decompress and began training at Xceleration Sports Training with John Furia and Steve Wilk, coaches who have become his friends over the years. A few weeks later, Pridgeon’s agent, Eugene Lee, called and said the Browns were interested in bringing him to training. He was recruited to the Cleveland coaching staff in September 2019. He was happy to be back in Ohio. His then-girlfriend, Emma Hnat, lived there and Pridgeon was only eight hours away from his mother. And after years of vanity, the Browns were on the verge of the ultimate rivalry.
“Those were good times,” he said. “They treated me with respect. I miss playing soccer and learning from the oldies.”
Misunderstanding. specified.Not a penny from Pridgeon’s suspense-season film at his home in Central Islip, N.Y. More time with his sister, his 10-year-old niece and his new fiancée. Jackie Molloy for ESPN.
PRAGON was at greater risk because he suffers from high blood pressure, a condition so troubling that she temporarily put her high school football career on hold. He had to miss the season because he could not control his blood pressure.
He did a lot of research last summer about the health risks of COVID-19 and talked to everyone he knew – his girlfriend, siblings, coaches and agent – about what to do. “He was very conflicted,” Lee said, so he put Pridgeon in touch with Dr. Herb Martin, a psychologist who works with Lee’s agency, Vanguard Sports.
Pridgeon finally told his sister that he felt like he should have said no. She asked him how he felt. “It hurts me,” he told her, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be chosen to play on the team when I’m gone.
It’s a tough decision for players at any stage of NFL life. Safety in the ring Rolan Milligan has been playing soccer since he was four years old. It took three years and three teams before he finally made the Indianapolis roster in 2019. And now he wanted out?
His girlfriend is expecting a child on January 30 and her pregnancy is very dangerous because she has only one kidney. She said she needed to play. “She knew how important playing was to me,” he said. “She didn’t want to be the reason I wasn’t playing.”
He couldn’t take that risk.
Chandler Brewer wanted to play so badly that he took a front row seat on a flight to California last summer, broke down on Germ-X and went to training camp when it was deemed riskier. Brewer’s toughness has been well documented. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in his senior year at Middle Tennessee, underwent radiation at halftime and continued to play throughout the season.
But his agent, Buddy Baker, consulted a number of doctors, who decided the risks were too great for him to play. To stay in touch, Brewer, the offensive tackler for the Los Angeles Rams, had a tablet of his team. He viewed archived team meetings and films of games he had never played.
“I don’t want to do anything,” he said. “I will come back and I will be better, rested and refreshed. I’ll be ready to go and I won’t miss an inch.”
If there is anything positive coming out of 2020, it is that Pridgeon is committed. That’s what happened in late December. He took his girlfriend to the Christmas lights and knelt down in front of her, after which Hnat said “yes.”
Then we returned to the reality of waiting. On the second weekend in January, on a Sunday night, he sat in his sister’s living room on Central Island watching soccer with his brothers. Pridgeon wore a Browns sweatshirt that reminded him of his life before the pandemic. Cleveland was about to reach the playoffs for the first time in 26 years. A guard named Blake Hance came in to replace the injured Michael Dunn, replacing Joel Bitonio, who was on the COVID-19 team. Hance had never played in the NFL before and was recruited by the New York Jets’ coaching staff in Week 17.
Prigeon couldn’t help wondering what would have happened on another cold night in solitary confinement. He couldn’t dwell on it. He smiled and clapped and waited for better times.