Laurent Duvernay-Tardif misses football.
The Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman has no regrets about opting out of the 2020 NFL campaign to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. But the six-foot-five 321-pound Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., native is finding it increasingly difficult to be a fan and definitely plans on resuming his pro career with Kansas City after this campaign.
“At first I was missing playing in front of 80,000 people and then I was like, ‘At least they’re not playing in front of 80,000 people so it’s not too bad,”‘ Duvernay-Tardif said in a telephone interview Thursday.
“But now I’m missing way more than that. After finishing atop the AFC West with an NFL-best 14-2 record this season, Kansas City starts its Super Bowl defense Sunday when they host the Cleveland Browns in their first playoff contest.
Duvernay-Tardif helped Kansas City cap last season with a 31-20 Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers.
It was the storied franchise’s second NFL championship but first in 50 years.
But in July, Duvenay-Tardif — who received his medical degree from McGill in 2018 — became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While others did so for safety reasons, Duvernay-Tardif temporarily hung up his cleats to work as an orderly at a Montreal long-term care facility.
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid — whose mother also graduated from McGill’s medical school — and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes were among those to praise Duvernay-Tardif for his decision.
Sports Illustrated named Duvernay-Tardif as one of its Sportspeople of the Year and he was later a co-winner of the Lou Marsh Trophy, given annually to Canada’s top athlete.
“I’m 100 per cent sure I made the right call but I feel like maybe people give me too much credit for making that call,” he stated. “I know what it represents … but I feel my definition of a hero has changed this year.
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Duvernay-Tardif, who turns 30 next month, has taken some time away from the long-term care facility to do work for his foundation as well as towards his master’s degree at Harvard. But he’s arranged to receive his COVID-19 vaccination Friday before returning to the facility next week.