Thirty-eight-year-old Twins manager Rocco Baldelli sidelined veteran coaches Bob McClure and Bill Evers because of their high-risk ages when Major League Baseball kicked off its COVID-19 season outside the safety of a controlled bubble.
Both men are in their 60s.
If Vikings coach Mike Zimmer followed suit, the team would be heading into its bubble-free season without co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, 60; offensive line coach and run-game coordinator Rick Dennison, 62; senior defensive assistant Dom Capers, who turns 70 on Friday; and Zimmer himself, 64. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak would make the cut, barely, at 58, but did cite health concerns when he retired from coaching three years ago.
“It’s things you think about,” Zimmer said of being at higher risk of serious coronavirus complications. “There’s no way I would opt out, but I don’t think they even have opt-out for coaches.”
He went on, saying the older coaches feel safe — even though head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, who is in charge of the team’s COVID-19 prevention strategy as its infection control officer, tested positive for the virus.
“I think us coaches who are in these higher-risk areas, we kind of understand how safe it really is in this building,” said Zimmer, adding that he has been tested daily for nine or 10 days. “Where we have to be careful is when we step outside the building.”
Zimmer said he has talked to his older coaches about having yet another health concern to factor into their already stress-filled lives as coaches.
“I think we love to do what we do so much that this is important to us,” Zimmer said. “It’s important to us to take these young rookie cornerbacks and try to get them better. It’s important to take these young offensive linemen and try to make them better. Try to prove to everybody that we can do what we’re trying to get done throughout the course of this season.”
At 57, General Manager Rick Spielman isn’t too far down the list of at-risk age groups. He said the team is doing everything possible to prevent the virus from entering and spreading throughout TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
Masks, obviously, are mandatory except for when players are practicing. Rooms are sanitized frequently. And social distancing is monitored by electronic devices worn by each person in the building.
“We have these new tracer devices, so we know who has come within 6 feet of us,” Spielman said. “So every time someone comes close to me my little light starts beeping. It says, ‘I just got a minute and a half wasted with you. I got only 8½ minutes left with you out of my 10-minute period.’ ”
But, obviously, as the Vikings found out when Sugarman and his family tested positive, the team can’t control everything during a worldwide pandemic. Especially outside of a bubble.
So Zimmer has crafted multiple contingencies in case coaches test positive.
“Coach Zimmer has spent a lot of time with his staff on who will do what in case something happens,” Spielman said.
Zimmer said he also has spent a lot of time reminding players that what they do outside team headquarters can affect teammates, other families and, yes, coaches they care for who are in their 60s and one who will be 70 soon.
“We always talk about that,” Zimmer said. “We talk about with the players that we have a responsibility to not only our families and ourselves but to the rest of this football team.
“We have a responsibility to Kyle Rudolph’s family. We have a responsibility to Kirk Cousins’ family. We have a responsibility to Dalvin Cook’s family. We all need to stay safe with one another but also all our other families as well.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org