Key NFL players will be sidelined by COVID-19, former Giants Mark Herzlich thinks

Giants linebacker Herzlich watches over practice for the NFL Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis
New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich (58) watches over practice for the NFL Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis February 3, 2012. The Giants will play the New England Patriots on February 5. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

As an unprecedented NFL season is slated to kick off Thursday, a portion of the game’s promising stars will likely become sidelined due to COVID-19 this fall, former Giants Super Bowl XLVI-winning linebacker and current ESPN analyst Mark Herzlich believes.

“I think at some point you’re going to see key players not playing because they’re going to test positive or they’re going to have a false positive, or something’s going to happen where you’re going to have marquee players that aren’t suiting up and you’re probably not going to know exactly why,” due to medical confidentiality, Herzlich told amNewYork Metro.

Speaking outside of a Bronx Dunkin’ in celebration of the coffee giant ‘welcoming back’ guests with a free, small iced coffee, he also addressed what sort of impact not playing a preseason this year will have on teams.

Calling it a huge change and deficit for undrafted free agents such as himself to not get a shot to play in 2020, Herzlich also believes that players will respond differently to the game’s physicality without the month of preparation.

Using the analogy of Uma Thurman repeatedly punching through a casket in Kill Bill: Volume 2, he said, “the next day you are just beat up but then after a few preseason games you get used to the contact,” adding his own curiosity as to how soon players will be able to recover from heavy collisions in week one to be able to hit again.

“As it is right now, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get the season going,” he said, noting a belief that pros will be more prone to minor injuries.

“Those are the type of things you play through so I don’t think you’re going to see guys sit out because of those injuries, it’s more so are they able to go one hundred percent next week.”

Herzlich also talked about the impact a full house of raucous fans or lack thereof has on a game — it’s well more than just pulling for the home team on third down, he says.

“The crowd makes a huge difference in being able to not only just hear but also hear what the quarterback is saying, you’re going to have to whisper as quarterback or linebacker when you’re calling the checks or plays,” adding that teams will need to vary a “verbal repertoire” since audibles will be so audible this year,” he said.

As for college football, Herzlich predicts that students will ultimately be sent home this fall while athletic teams remain on campus.

“I just think that there’s too big of a monetary upside and necessity for these schools to have a football season regardless of if anyone’s in the stands or not,” the former Boston College player and said.

Reflecting on his time as an Eagle, he said that team pre-COVID protocol has strictly been going from practice to dorm anyway.

“The most responsible team is going to get the most benefit out of this season,” Herzlich said, expressing concern over the extent contact tracing for teams that contract a high number of Coronavirus cases.

“Once the season starts, how far back are they going to go and will they affect another team? It’s going to be crazy.”

Herzlich, whose expertise is especially relevant to the ACC believes too that Notre Dame will end up a permanent member of the conference after the independent school and conference’s temporary union this season.

“What I think is that they’re going to join for good because I think this year they will have one or two losses and still make it to a New year’s Six Bowl game, which would never happen if they’re independent,” he said.

“With recruiting the way it is now, Notre Dame just can’t get all the top five star recruits like they used to be able to do, I think they’ll eventually join, it’s trending that way, you can’t really do it on your own anymore.”