Head physician for NFL players union on upcoming season: ‘To me, it’s zero or 100’

Head physician for NFL players union on upcoming season: 'To me, it's zero or 100'

CHARLOTTE — Bank of America Stadium sits empty, but as we inch closer to the scheduled start of the NFL season, uncertainty grows about whether it will remain silent in the fall.

>> Have questions about the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the Carolinas? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak -- CLICK HERE FOR MORE.

A big concern for the league is the safety of the players.

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Reporter Dashawn Brown spoke Wednesday with the medical director of the NFL Players Association about when football could return, and what that could look like.

>> Watch the video at the top of this webpage to see her full report.

Dr. Thom Mayer is one of the leading voices set to influence how and when NFL athletes return to the field. He is the Chief Medical Director for the NFL Players Association, and previously served as the Command Physician at the Pentagon on September 11.

"This is contact disease in a contact sport, so that's the biggest obstacle by far," Mayer said.

With help from researchers at Harvard and Johns Hopkins, among others with experience in disaster medicine, Mayer is chair of the players union task force for COVID-19, now called the Emerging Infectious Disease Task Force.

He combs through national and global data almost daily, but specifically for information from 30 U.S. counties, including Mecklenburg County, where NFL club facilities are located.

Head physician for NFL players union on upcoming season: 'To me, it's zero or 100'

"I look every morning at Mecklenburg County and say is that rising, is it falling, what is the trend over time?"

Mayer pointed to access to COVID-19 testing as a key factor in future decisions.

"The testing needs to be of sufficient number and type that we're not diverting resources away from the community," he said. "We don't want to do that. We're not going to do that."

Mayer said he and others on the task force will entertain any idea that will better protect NFL athletes, and will help resume play. One idea he's proposing is face shields.

"We're looking at ways to say, ‘Can you see, is it comfortable?’ And does that at least disperse the virus out laterally and keep it down?"

Any decisions about what happens will be up to the NFL but influenced by the NFLPA and its infectious disease task force.

"My assumption is if all clubs can't open, then my guess is the NFL is going to say no clubs can open, or they would have to look at opening it in some place that was not in the middle of a rising hot spot," Mayer said.

The NFL is expected to release its 2020 schedule this week, but already announced league games scheduled internationally in Mexico City and London will instead be played in the United States.

“To the schedule, I hope it’s on tissue paper, I hope they wrote it in pencil,” said Mayer. “To me, it’s zero or 100. It’s either going to happen or it’s not going to happen.”