PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC is set to play its first away match of the season Thursday. The opponent is Orange County FC in California, which was shut down Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom. This included a number of things, but maybe most important, restaurants.
“There are three things a football player needs: a good field, good food and a good bed,” Rising coach Rick Schantz said. “If you take care of those three things you can be OK. So, food is a big issue right now.”
The kitchen at the hotel where the Rising will be staying was also shut down, so staff members are working with restaurants around the area to see if arrangements can be made for before and after the game.
Phoenix will take two buses to the game to adhere to strict social distancing rules. Each player will be separated by 12 to 15 feet, and each player upon arriving in Orange County will have his own hotel room.
To ensure player safety, the Rising will take both buses home right after the game, something Schantz said will probably be normal during this modified season.
Suns Johnson bulking up
For the Phoenix Suns and their rookies, quarantine was all about the muscle.
Suns coach Monty Williams has told local reporters multiple times that he was shocked at the amount of muscle Cam Johnson put on during quarantine. Wednesday, the forward revealed that he had added around 10 to 12 pounds of muscle since the NBA season went on hiatus.
Point guard Ty Jerome also said that it was his goal to “make sure my body’s right” during the four months off.
Jerome spent his time in Virginia with college teammate and Atlanta Hawks forward De’Andre Hunter. They worked out together six days a week during the hiatus.
Williams said that the COVID-19 forced hiatus has “been like an offseason” for the rookies.
Jerome and Johnson believe they have become better players during the time off and Johnson specifically mentioned the amount of film he watched.
Johnson will be a key rotation player in Orlando, as he was all season, and Jerome, when asked about his role said, “That’s a question for coach.”
Coyotes adjust to world with COVID-19
Safety and following protocols are key for the Arizona Coyotes as they prepare to head to the hub city of Edmonton on July 26.
The team starts its playoff journey August 2 against the Nashville Predators and said the health and safety of players is the organization’s primary focus as training camp continues and the playoff season quickly approaches.
When it comes to the players’ personal lives, they are making changes and learning to adapt in this coronavirus era. For some, having a family and living across the country carries more weight.
“I left my family back in Minnesota and it just felt like the safer thing to do,” center Derek Stepan said. “My wife is actually pregnant with our third, so we have been extra safe and trying to make sure we are not having any hiccups.”
Safety protocols are set in the NHL, but every player is facing different circumstances and adjusting in various ways when it comes to enhancing safety.
“I have been in Arizona the entire time and every aspect of life has been different.” center Barrett Hayton said. “I just think trying to find a rhythm and getting into a routine for the first couple weeks is something you are still trying to figure out.”
NFLPA concerned about Arizona
Discussions between the NFL and NFL Players Association appeared to have stalled and one reason is fear that training camps in states where COVID-19 numbers are high – Arizona is one of them – could shut down, which means limiting gathering to 10 or fewer people.
That would take training camp out of the equation.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano said on Twitter that “players still want daily testing, elimination of preseason games and for COVID to be classified as a football injury.”
The NFLPA was scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss its options.
Graziano also wrote that “hovering over the discussions is the increasing possibility that states like TX, AZ, CA may be shutting down again soon, restricting gatherings of 10 or more people, which obviously would preclude training camps in those states. External factors could force delayed start.”