Sean McVay did not shy throughout the offseason from vocalizing his skepticism regarding the start of training camp and the NFL season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But on Sunday, during a videoconference with reporters, the Los Angeles Rams coach expressed a growing sense of optimism that camp and the season will move forward as scheduled, even as the pandemic looms.
"I feel a lot better now, having a little bit more knowledge and understanding of -- it's really about the risk mitigation, keeping our ecosystem clear," McVay said.
McVay previously doubted logistics and the seemingly contradictory guidelines that included social distancing while playing a contact sport. "We're going to social distance, but we play football?" McVay asked, rhetorically, in June. "This is really hard for me to understand all this. I don't want to be -- I don't get it. I really don't."
But, as the Rams prepare to enter the training camp acclimation period, McVay said he has a greater understanding of the NFL safety protocols -- which include rigorous testing and social distancing -- that have been implemented.
"We're still going to play football," McVay said. "I think there's a better understanding of how we apply those risk mitigation practices. I made the comment about social distancing -- we're not going to do that on the field, but in those meeting settings when you can do that and you're wearing your masks, those are the times that we're going to do that."
After an offseason of virtual meetings, the Rams are scheduled to hold their first in-person team meeting on Monday under a tent erected in the parking lot of their team training facility in Thousand Oaks, California. More than 80 players and coaches are expected to attend.
McVay said education would prove critical in the Rams' effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, as will personal responsibility outside of the training facility.
"Guys are chomping at the bit to get back and understand that that's going to be part of how we have a successful season -- is guys successfully handling themselves in the right way with regards to the risk mitigation," McVay said. "We've always just talked about handling yourself in a professional manner outside the building for just good decision making and now that's an added part of it as we navigate through this."
McVay said he will not attempt to regulate how players spend free time outside of the training facility, but he did point to recent outbreaks that have begun to plague Major League Baseball's season as examples that NFL players must avoid.
"There's a level of responsibility that coaches, players and really everybody in our building will have outside of the ecosystem to make sure there's a consideration," McVay said. "It's not just about what you're doing here, it's about understanding how important the ramifications can be if you make bad decisions outside of that with who you are exposed to."