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'You can't let up': Inside the Broncos' opening team meeting detailing COVID-19 protocols

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As the Broncos welcomed their veteran players back to UCHealth Training Center, the team held an extensive meeting Sunday on the team's COVID-19 protocols.

The two-hour meeting, which was held in a socially distant manner with most of the team in the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse and others joining virtually from the team room in the main facility, featured Head Coach Vic Fangio, Director of Sports Medicine Steve "Greek" Antonopulos and a number of the team's top executives.

During the presentation, more than a dozen members of the Broncos' staff discussed topics that ranged from how to identify symptoms of COVID-19 and how the team will remain socially distanced at the facility to the team's new-look media policy and a player's return to play following a positive diagnosis.

Fangio opened the meeting by thanking the Broncos' medical, operations and human resources departments while also acknowledging the role Brittany Bowlen played in leading the COVID-19 task force.

"You guys will see as you go around the buildings what they've done for us to make this possible," Fangio said. "And it's become more than a job for them. It's become personal and passionate, and they want to see this thing work. They're doing their job, but they're doing it with an extra little oomph to it, because it's become personal and passionate for them. We all want to thank them for that."

He then emphasized the need for the team to follow preventative measures away from UCHealth Training Center.

"We'll get to a point where it might seem like it's easy," Fangio said of the series of protocols. "That's not the time to let up. That's the time to double down on our attention to the protocols and doing the right thing.

"I do think we can do this … but it's going to be incumbent upon all of us."

To illustrate his point, Fangio referred to a saying that is posted inside the team's facility: Don't give up what you want most for what you might want now.

"I think you see here that this is going to require accountability on all our parts," Antonopulos said. "We're going to do our part. You need to do your part. Call your buddy out if he doesn't have his mask on. The team that works the best in this whole thing, the team that follows the rules, the team that has the least amount of issues, those are the teams that are going to go the furthest. There's no question about it. You have to be flexible and accountable.

"Our standards have to be the highest that they can possibly be."

A series of slides during Sunday's presentation illustrated the far-reaching nature of the Broncos' COVID-19 policy:

  • Executive Vice President of Human Resources Nancy Svoboda detailed the team's infectious response team.
  • Dr. Michelle Barron of UCHealth explained what is known about the disease.
  • Team physician Dr. Steven Geraghty detailed what players should do if they feel symptoms. "I am more than happy to find out about symptoms at 2 in the morning if that's when they come on," Geraghty said.
  • Senior Vice President, Information Technology Russ Trainor outlined the team's touchless check-in system.
  • Vice President, Football Operations & Compliance Mark Thewes detailed the Broncos' daily testing process and the team's progressive training camp schedule.
  • Senior Vice President of Operations Chip Conway explained the Broncos' contact-tracing technology.
  • Director of Team Nutrition Bryan Snyder spoke about cafeteria protocols.
  • Head Athletic Trainer Vince Garcia explained how the athletic training room would operate.
  • Equipment Manager Chris Valenti talked about how the locker rooms would be set up.
  • Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Loren Landow explained new weight room protocols.
  • Antonopulos detailed how a positive case would be handled.
  • Behavior Health Specialist Dr. Nicole Linen outlined how she could serve as a resource during trying times.
  • Chief Communications Officer Patrick Smyth spoke with the players about the importance of using their media and social media platforms to make a difference in the fight against COVID-19. "This is not just about you as players," Smyth said. "It is a shared responsibility across the entire organization. Our fans look at you as men who are leaders in this community who set the right example."

"We're in different times," Antonopulos said early in the presentation. "There's no question about it. It's put a wrench into everything that we do and all of our jobs, most of all yours. It's not going to feel normal, because it's not normal. ... The only way to look at this is this is a new normal. You have to take it and run with it as well. We must all be in — bottom line — on this thing … or this isn't going to work."

Through the first several days of testing, the Broncos have just one player on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. And Fangio, who repeatedly emphasized the onus would fall on players, coaches and staff alike, closed the meeting by stressing that the Broncos could find success during unusual and trying circumstances.

"We're off to a good start," Fangio said. "You can't let up."

Take an inside look at the Broncos' team meeting regarding COVID-19, including an overview of the precautionary measures around UCHealth Training Center.

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