Nick Chubb likes coach Kevin Stefanski’s message about taking the proper steps to stay safe and on the field. He trusts his teammates to do the right things when they’re away from Browns headquarters.
But Chubb has a worry when it comes to playing the season during the coronavirus pandemic.
“My biggest concern is just one person messing it up for everybody,” the Pro Bowl running back said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “If one person gets sick, if somebody somehow gets on the field around a lot more guys, he can spread it through that. We have tests every morning so I think that wouldn’t happen anyway, but if somehow some guy slipped past the test and all that, then that would worry me.”
The NFL, like Major League Baseball but unlike the NBA and NHL, isn’t playing the season in a bubble. So the coaches, players and staff have the potential to bring the virus back to the building, especially if they behave irresponsibly.
The Indians are dealing with the fallout after starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac went out in Chicago on Saturday. The two are being forced to quarantine and were placed on the restricted list Tuesday.
“I think we are going to do a great job,” Chubb said. “Coach Stefanski has really told us, ‘Do your part. If everybody does their part, we will be OK.’ I think our guys on the team, we understand that.
“You have old veterans who know better and who have been in the game awhile, and you have young rookies who want to make the team so they are going to do everything right. If everybody does our part right, just follow the protocols, the guidelines and things like that, I think we will have a season.”
Cornerback Denzel Ward said he doesn’t have any big concerns at the moment about playing during the pandemic and believes the Browns will stick to the protocols when they’re outside the facility.
“I am very confident,” he said. “I feel like we have some smart guys on the team, guys that are going to take care of their business.
“Already being here, the organization, they are doing a good job of just going through protocols, keeping us sanitized, making sure we keep our masks on and everything. I feel like guys are going to do good, as well, once they get off the field and go home.”
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
New defensive coordinator Joe Woods wants Ward to change his technique in press man coverage. Ward said he appreciates the tweak but implementing it is a challenge.
“Yeah, a little bit, just because I have not really worked that technique before,” he said. “It has been a fun process so far and learning the new technique. Just trying new things out and not really being one-dimensional.”
Ward, the No. 4 pick in 2018 out of Ohio State, had a bit of an up-and-down season in 2019. He missed four games early in the year with a hamstring injury and wound up with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and 11 passes defensed.
“I feel that I had a decent season, not the season that I have in my mind when I set my goals and everything that I want to accomplish throughout the year, but I feel that I definitely produced throughout the season and did my job when I was out there on the field, made plays and helped my team,” he said. “I feel that I still have a lot more that I could do, prove and still give to this team to help this team win.”
The news became official after Ward’s interview, but he was already thinking about what it would feel like for Ohio State not to play football in the fall. The Big Ten canceled fall sports, with the hope of playing in the spring.
“It upsets me, but I know it upsets those guys a lot more,” he said of the players. “They are out there trying to prove themselves, if they have dreams of playing in the NFL and taking it to the next level. They wanted to show themselves this year, play with their guys and be out there on the field and making plays.
“I know that it is real difficult for those guys.”
The Browns secondary will look a lot different, with likely four of the top six defensive backs new to the team — safeties Grant Delpit, Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo and nickelback Kevin Johnson.
Ward sees big things for the group.
“I feel like we could be special,” he said. “We just have to play within the defense, play within ourselves, make plays and do what we are supposed to do, and everything else will take care of itself.”
The two holdovers expected to be huge contributors are Ward and fellow starting cornerback Greedy Williams, who was a second-round pick in 2019.
“The sky is the limit for both of us,” Ward said.
Despite no offseason practices and no preseason games, Delpit, the No. 44 pick in April, is expected to step right into the starting lineup and make an impact.
“You guys already saw what he did on the field at LSU,” Ward said. “He is definitely a fluid player, and he is definitely tough. You saw that last year at LSU. He had a hurt ankle that I feel a lot of people probably didn’t even know about, but he played through it.
“He is a tough player. He is going to bring that toughness here. He is just a fun guy to be around, too, in the locker room and everywhere else on the field.”