Ryan Day defended his guy — and then went on the offensive with everyone else.
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky started a firestorm last week in an appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” during which he, citing unnamed sources, brought into question Justin Fields’ work ethic and attitude.
Speaking with NBC’s Peter King, the Ohio State head coach did his best to defend Fields against the claims, but in the process levied some irresponsible and football-blowhard commentary best served for Facebook comment sections and other sordid areas of the internet:
The whole idea that he doesn’t have a very good work ethic? I mean, to me, that’s crazy. He got done with the Clemson game and he came back and all he did was work to get back to that game. And when those other guys are opting out, what’s he do? He petitions to have a season. He put together this petition that the Big Ten athletes all signed saying that they want to play, but they want to play safely and that they don’t accept canceling the season. It was all led by Justin Fields. Where was everybody else? Where were the guys who were opting out then? You know, you don’t love the game if you’re doing something like that. This kid loves the game.
Seems bold to question the passion of athletes who already risk broken bones, traumatic brain injuries and career-threatening injuries to not want to put their health on the line long-term any more than they have to. After all, the former three are inherent risks of the game. Playing in the face of a devastating virus is not.
In case you’re waking up from a very conveniently and unfortunately placed coma, the world has been dealing with the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic for the better part of the past year and a half. The United States has been hit particularly hard, with more than 550,000 deaths attributed to the illness.
There were also a number of high-profile athletes who decided not to play in the 2020 college football season in the face of the pandemic, including potential top-10 picks Penei Sewell (Oregon) and Ja’Marr Chase (LSU).
Even if deaths have disproportionately affected those of advanced age in the country, college athletes have been affected. In a study conducted by Day’s very own The Ohio State University that included 26 male and female athletes, 30 percent were discovered to have heart conditions after even minor cases of coronavirus.
So, needless to say, sports may not come No. 1 for a lot of college athletes who are already being exploited by big-money schools for their talent and ability.
At best, Day’s comments are a poor attempt to deify Fields and prop his guy up to rebuild his stock before the NFL draft. At worst, it’s a thinly veiled shot at athletes who were apprehensive about taking the field in a pandemic.
Either way you look at it, it’s not great.