Not long after the NFL and NFL Players Association came to an agreement on terms for training camp, Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first player to announce he was opting out of the 2020 season.
Less than 24 hours after Duvernay-Tardif's announcement, the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs were getting their camp underway and Kansas City superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes conveyed his support and respect for Duvernay-Tardif's decision, though he admitted it did come as a shock.
"I think it surprises anyone, but at the same time you respect his decision," Mahomes told the media Saturday in a Zoom press conference. "He's a guy that's been on those front lines working with the people that are suffering from COVID day to day and putting in all that time and all that work. He understands it and his decision was he wanted to stay there; he wanted keep helping in that capacity and I know it was difficult for him, but you respect the decision for him to kinda put his thoughts aside and kinda do what he thought was best to help out his community and the world as he sees it."
A medical school graduate from Canada's McGill University, the 29-year-old Duvernay-Tardif has been working as an orderly in a long-term care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid spoke glowingly of his Duvernay-Tardif and his admiration for his decision and his sacrifice to his other profession.
"[Doctors are] givers, they're not takers, they're givers and they're healers. They want the best for you. Larry has that quality. And you're seeing it to the utmost, here. I just think it's tremendous dedication to his profession, what his future's gonna be and mainly to the people that he gets to help. My heart goes out to him. I had a great talk with him, great visit with him. His players support him. The veteran players support him, the coaches support him," Reid said. "I'm so happy and proud."
In speaking with other teammates, Mahomes mentioned that he's heard nothing but support for Duvernay-Tardif's choice and his reasoning behind it.
"From everybody that I've spoken to, everybody respects his decision 100%," Mahomes said. "Larry's a guy who loves football, but he also loves his other passions and being a doctor is extremely important, especially at this time that we're at in this world. And so for him, I know it's difficult for him, he wants to be out here with us, he wants to be a part of us, he wants to be a part of the guys. But at the same time, he wants to make sure he's doing something to make the world a better place and I believe he is doing that. He's seen it first-hand and he understands he has to be in that place now and we're gonna respect it and give him as much support as we can."
As for Mahomes' personal concerns for his safety in regard to the novel coronavirus, he admitted he has some, but he's been pleased and made more comfortable since he's arrived for training camp at the Arrowhead Stadium facilities.
"Definitely there's gonna be a little concern," Mahomes said. "You'd be lying to say you have no concern, but at the same time as I've been throughout the facility now the last night and a little bit today and seeing all the protocols and all the safety things that [Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance] Rick [Burkholder] and all these guys have put forth, it's really kinda made me feel even better than I thought coming in. Knowing how much that the NFL and the NFLPA has really put in to making sure that we can be as safe as we possibly can be. That's kinda put my mind at ease of knowing I'm going to be in the best possible situation, given the time, to be as safe and as healthy as possible."
Beyond training camp, the loss of Duvernay-Tardif could be a pivotal one as the Chiefs vie for back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Kansas City's starting right guard for five of his six NFL seasons, Duvernay-Tardif started 14 games in last year's regular season. Ryan Hunter and Andrew Wylie are candidates to move up the depth chart to replace him.
"Would we love to have Larry? Absolutely," Reid said, "but we understand his cause."