With new restrictions in Santa Clara County due to rising COVID-19 numbers, the San Francisco 49ers have been forced to find a new and temporary homefield.
Set to host their next two home contests at the Arizona Cardinals' State Farm Stadium, the Niners will be away from their families during perhaps the most difficult time of the year to be away from loved ones and, due to COVID-19 protocols, are only around one another on Zooms and socially distanced practices.
Hence, San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan, who's had to deal with his team taking on a rash of injuries this season, is urging his players to look out for each other and their teammates' mental health.
"I just try to tell everyone, no matter what, when someone has a problem, whatever it is, there's no problem too big or too small," Shanahan told reporters Thursday via team transcript. "A lot of guys keep that stuff internally, but I met with a bunch of the players and I grabbed about 20 of them last night and just told them to look out for that stuff and make sure that whether they come to me, a position coach, we have lots of people here who aren't coaches or players who can help people. So, it's just understanding that it's human nature. Some stuff's going to come up over the next three weeks and no one ignore it. Just always bring it to someone's attention because the worst thing you could be in these situations is feel kind of alone on an island and we've got a big group going through it, so we can rally together and make sure we help each other through it."
Currently, the 49ers are preparing to play the Bills on Monday night in San Francisco's first home game in Arizona. The immediate lead-up to the game isn't the time Shanahan is overly concerned with, though. It's the slower days when his players potentially feel more isolated that worries him most.
"Now's the easy part, just because we got here on a workday and we're going hard all the way until our game on Monday," Shanahan said. "So, it's more of the times after that."
Topics such as mental health and depression were once taboo and came with a stigma in the world of the mighty athlete, but more and more times are changing.
With a worldwide pandemic carrying on and the NFL having to implement protocols to combat coronavirus outbreaks, a new and very real concern of the effects of isolation is prevalent.
And Shanahan, who's fast become recognized by many as one of the top coaches in the league, is letting his players know they aren't alone in the tough times ahead and there are avenues for them to seek assistance.
"I just try to stress to people is everyone's going to be at different levels and some people are going to deal with this different than others," Shanahan said. "Someone who hits that wall, whatever it is, you read about the NBA players in the bubble and all the mental issues they went through and stuff. Those guys were at least allowed to hang with each other. We're not, so we're basically just in rooms here. Haven't seen the guys except when we Zoom meet them and then when we go out to the field for walkthrough, so it's not like we're in a bubble hanging out. So, those things will build up on guys and each guy will handle it differently."