TAMPA, Fla. ? Cameron Brate said he did not get coronavirus a couple of months ago from a teammate. It came from his soulmate ? fiancee Brooke Skelley.
At first, the Bucs tight end tested negative, but then had only some mild symptoms, including a loss of smell and taste. Brate self-quarantined while workouts continued with Tom Brady and more than a dozen players at Berkeley Preparatory School.
"I'm extremely grateful I wasn't one of the people who got some of the more severe symptoms," Brate said Thursday. "But I will say, kind of like the scary thing is, if she hadn't tested positive, I would've gone on my life as normal and potentially infected other people."
Brate said during the twice-weekly workouts, players tried to do their best to keep a safe distance from one another while catching passes from Brady, the six-time Super Bowl quarterback. The workouts continued even after the National Football Players Association recommended they stop.
We weren't huddling up, we weren't hugging each other or anything like that," Brate said. "Kind of a calculated risk I would say taken in that regard. But we did our best to maintain social distance and not have too much close interaction with one another."
Bucs veterans are in the process of being tested before the start of the full-squad training camp. Rookies and quarterbacks reported earlier this week. The only player placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list was running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, the Bucs third-round pick from Vanderbilt.
Despite the league's best safety efforts, Brate says he still is concerned someone could become very sick with the virus sometime during the season. Those who could become infected include not only players, but coaches, trainers, equipment managers and other staff who work at the AdventHealth Training Center.
"I think that possibility is really scary," Brate said. " ... I think it's going to take everyone being smart when you're away from the building."
As part of the league's new rules surrounding COVID-19, NFL players who contract the coronavirus while attending 'high-risk' venues or events like a concert or large gathering will be subject to team discipline and potentially lose their pay.
Brate, 29, believes there are enough protocols in place to keep players safe at the team facility. He says he's "cautiously optimistic,'" about the league starting and completing the 2020 season. But much of that, he says, depends on the discipline of players.
"So much is unknown about that virus, that even Brate isn't completely sure if he could contract it again.
"I definitely don't feel like I got the 'S' on my chest, that I can't get infected or anything like that," he said. "But yeah, hopefully, in a few months, I'll be okay."
In the meantime, Brate taped a public service announcement for the Bucs encouraging survivors of COVID-19 to donate plasma to patients. He and Skelley are signed up to donate in the future, he said.
While Brate feels fortunate, not everybody is as confident it's safe for them and their family to play football during a pandemic. Several weeks ago, left tackle Donovan Smith said he felt it may be "too risky" for him and his young family to play in 2020. But coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday that Smith is playing.
"I totally respect and understand everyone making their decision either way," Brate said. "I'm officially opting in. I'm willing to play. Well, you can say it's easy, you've already had coronavirus. But selfishly for our team, I hope no one opts out. The more of our guys we have the better."
Brate could be a key piece to the Bucs' success this season, even with the arrival of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Last year, Brate only participated in 38% of the offensive snaps. He caught 36 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
If Brate and his teammates stay healthy, a Bucs franchise that hasn't reached the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons should get back on its feet, too.
"You know, there is going to be risk involved, because you can't social distance playing football," Brate said. "You're tackling, you're blocking, you're sweating, spitting on each other - whatever. There's just a lot going on in the game of football. I think outside of actually playing, the facility is one of the safest spots you can be in."
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