Bruce Arians is 67 years old, and has had to step away from coaching for health reasons before.
On the other hand, Tom Brady.
The Buccaneers coach said he was aware of the risk of coaching during a pandemic, but the opportunity to coach a legend was too enticing.
“I got to be real careful,” Arians told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ll probably double with a mask and a [face] shield. You know, because l already had my scare out there [in Arizona] once a couple of years ago.
“For me personally, I’ve got a plan and I just have to be smart enough to stay with it.”
Arians has survived three bouts with cancer, and he’s one of the NFL’s oldest coaches (Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are 68). At a time when many younger people (including players) are weighing the risk of returning to sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, Arians also has a staff with other older coaches including 81-year-old offensive consultant Tom Moore.
“Tom is probably the healthiest one of all of us,” Arians said. “We’ve got to be careful. The players, they’re going to all get sick, that’s for sure. It’s just a matter of how sick they get.”
The Bucs have already had a COVID-19 case, with one assistant coach testing positive, and two others forced to quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact. Also, Brady has been having workouts with teammates in violation of NFLPA recommendations.
Bucs director of athlete performance Greg Skaggs is in charge of creating protocols to keep the staff as safe as possible once they gather, and Arians is confident in the plan.
“Skaggs is on top of this. He’s done a great job with all our protocols,” Arians said. “I brought the staff in for that reason, to make sure they all bought into the protocols, that we all walked the right way in the hallways and had our masks on. I jumped on a bunch of their asses because the players aren’t going to do it if we don’t do it.”
Arians has also had some conversations with top players — emphasizing the need to stay at home prior to camp — but is making plans for a season that will be different than any other. He said they will possibly travel on game day some weeks, to reduce travel-related risks.
“I don’t think it will look too different other than I will still wear a mask for sure,” Arians said. “And we’ll see how the headsets work and stuff talking through a mask. That part of it. And being outside.
“Being in an indoor stadium, that worries me a bit more. And I’m really concerned about the away hotels and away locker rooms. That’s a big point of emphasis. The ventilation in those locker rooms is terrible with guys getting out of the showers and getting treatment.”
There will be many other changes once the season resumes. And Arians is taking those changes seriously, for a good reason.