Malcolm Jenkins says he wouldn't be comfortable returning to football until coronavirus risk is eliminated

We’ve seen some NBA players opt out of the season restart in Florida. High-risk Major League Baseball players can choose to not play this season and still be paid.

The National Football League will have to figure out what it will do if some of its players want to opt out of playing during the coronavirus pandemic. A high-profile player said on CNN he’s not comfortable returning to work until the risk is eliminated.

New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins expressed concern about playing again, the risk for family members, and how the NFL can’t be like the NBA playing through the health crisis.

Malcolm Jenkins: ‘Risk has to be eliminated’

Jenkins expressed what other players are surely feeling, and that’s concern about playing football while trying to stay clear of COVID-19.

“Until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand football is a non-essential business, so we don’t need to do it,” Jenkins told CNN. “The risk has to be really eliminated before we — before I — would feel comfortable going back.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently made news by saying it’s hard to see football being played in the fall unless players and coaches were “essentially in a bubble.” That is not realistic for the NFL.

“The NBA is a lot different than the NFL because they can actually quarantine all their players, or whoever is going to participate,” Jenkins said on CNN. “We have over 2,000 players, even more coaches and staff, we can’t do that.”

Jenkins said he worries about family members like his parents getting sick if he’s exposed to the virus.

“We end up being on this trust system, the honor system where we have to hope guys are social distancing and things like that, and that puts all of us at risk,” Jenkins said.

Malcolm Jenkins expressed concern about returning to football. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM )

Jenkins later posted a video to social media that explained he does want to play this year, but that a lot is still unknown about the virus.

Will NFL players opt out?

The NFL hasn’t definitively laid out any plans for what happens if players want to opt out of this season due to fear of the virus. On an episode of HBO’s “Real Sports” with the union heads for the NFL, NBA and MLB, NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith was asked if he could see a scenario if a game is played between two teams that have several players who have opted out.

“Certainly. Just about everything is possible, just about every scenario is possible,” Smith said. “We’re going to be making a lot of decisions based on up-to-the-minute information that we have.”

That doesn’t give us a clear idea of how the NFL and union will treat players who want to opt out. There’s still some time to work through all of that, but clearly the virus is not going away. The NFL canceled its Hall of Fame game and Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in early August, which is after training camps are slated to open.

Jenkins says he won’t feel comfortable until the risk is eliminated, but the league and union have acknowledged they can’t eliminate the risk. A vaccine is highly unlikely to be readily available by football season.

Jenkins is a prominent voice in the NFL. If Jenkins does decide to not play this season, he might not be the only one.

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