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Bucs LT Donovan Smith doesn’t think playing during COVID-19 pandemic is ‘a risk worth taking’

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  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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  • Donovan Smith
    Donovan Smith
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With the coronavirus still raging in the United States, particularly in Florida, Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith says he doesn’t think playing football is “a risk worth taking” this season.

In a lengthy Instagram post on Friday that tagged the NFL and the players union, Smith slammed several aspects of the league’s safety and testing protocol, and expressed concern as he’s expecting his first child in less than a month.

Playing football, he said, simply doesn’t seem safe given the close contact to others that the game requires.

“The unfortunate events of the COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt to a lot of things. Football is not one. To continue discussing the many UNKNOWNS do not give me the comfort," Smith wrote. "Risking my health as well as my family's health does not seem like a risk worth taking. With my first child due in three weeks, I can't help but think about how will I be able to go to work and take proper precautions around 80+ people everyday to then go home to be with my newborn daughter.

“How can a sport that requires physical contact on every snap and transferal of all types of bodily fluid EVERY SINGLE PLAY practice safe social distancing? How can I make sure that I don't bring COVID-19 back to my household? Yes, we can get tested every day, but if it takes 24 hours to get my results, how can I know each day that I am not spreading this virus or contracting it?

“The reoccurring issue here is how? There are too many 'hows' that have yet to be answered to ease player concerns and ensure the safety of not only myself, but also my family. I just can't imagine how the game will be the same during these unprecedented times.”

There were more than 3.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Friday afternoon, according to The New York Times, and more than 133,000 deaths attributed to it. The country set a new single-day record on Thursday, too, recording more than 59,800 new cases alone.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Florida has more than 244,000 confirmed cases, and seen more than 9,000 new infections each day over the past week.

‘I deserve to be safe at work’

Smith was selected in the second round of the 2015 draft by the Buccaneers, and has missed just one game throughout his five NFL seasons. The 27-year-old is in the second year of his three-year, $41 million deal with the organization.

Training camps are slated to open on July 28, and the league is moving forward with the season despite the pandemic — though there are still plenty of details to work out. The league even proposed holding 35 percent of player salaries in escrow in 2020 to help offset anticipated revenue losses this season due to the coronavirus, which the NFLPA didn’t like.

Smith doesn’t think losing money while facing a greater health risk is fair, either.

“Now to hear that 35% of my paycheck may be withheld while we are out sacrificing our health and wellness for the joy and entertainment of everyone else who will be safe at home in front of their TVs? Something isn't right here,” Smith said. “That should at LEAST warrant a pay raise due to the risk, not a cut.

“I am not a lab rat or guinea pig to test theories on. I am a man, a son, brother, soon to be father, and I deserve to be safe at work.”

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