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NFL's COVID Outbreak Has Minnesota High School Teams Staying Vigilant

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Ask most football coaches and they'll tell you discipline is what wins football games. But this year, that trait has extra importance.

Willie Howard is head football coach at Robbinsdale Cooper High School.

"Now we need discipline in order for us to continue to maintain safety for not only ourselves, but the people that we're gonna play against," Howard said.

READ MORE: Vikings Shut Down In-Person Practice After 8 Titans Players, Personnel Test Positive For COVID

Maintaining safety means preventing the spread of COVID-19 and keep Hawks on the field. For example, players must wear masks and be socially distant when not wearing their helmets or involved in drills. The players are also split into pods based on jersey color when practicing.

"That way if there is anything that comes up, I know who was with who at what time," Howard said.

Their rules are strict, but the NFL takes it to another level. WCCO spoke earlier this summer with Eric Sugarman, head athletic trainer for the Minnesota Vikings, and the team's infection control officer in charge of implementing and enforcing the organization's countless number of COVID-19 protocols to prevent the virus' spread.

"The [NFL] protocols are certainly going to be followed, but we're trying to do even more," Sugarman said.

READ MORE: Some High School Programs Fear Low Participation In Restarted Football, Volleyball Seasons

At the team facility in Eagan, there's a virus testing trailer out front. Players lockers are spaced out, and meeting rooms have fewer seats to ensure social distancing.

"There will be a [health] screening that you have to do each and every day when you come into the building," Sugarman said.

That building is now closed per NFL protocol after the Tennessee Titans organization had eight positive tests following their game against the Vikings.

With such strict rules, it made Coach Howard want to know how the infections happened, not just out of curiously, but as a learning lesson.

"For us, it's really being able to say hey, let's use this information and remind ourselves how quick something can be taken away, and why it's important that we maintain our protocols and do things the right way," Howard said.

The Vikings will hold a media update Wednesday about what comes next. The Titans are also expected to release more information about its positive tests.


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