Cancer-free, RB Conner unfazed by COVID-19


PITTSBURGH — People with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for infection and complications from COVID-19, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back and cancer survivor James Conner isn’t worried about the coronavirus when he eventually returns to the field.

“I’m 100%,” Conner said. “I had a weak immune system four years ago. It’s not weak anymore, thank God. I’m OK. I’m young and healthy. I went through what I went through.

“I’m not concerned, me personally. We’re going to play it safe, of course. I’m not going to ignore it or anything like that. But as far as me being scared or anything like that or trying to take extra, extra precautions because of my health history, that was four years ago. My body’s healed. I think when we follow our health protocol and guidelines, I’ll be just fine.”

Conner, 25, was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma in 2015 and was declared cancer-free in May 2016 after a six-month chemotherapy regimen.

NFL Players Association medical director Dr. Thom Mayer said he thinks there could be extra recommendations for players with preexisting conditions, such as wearing different helmets and masks, maintaining social distancing off the field and utilizing single-use hydration.

“Anybody who’s got a risk, I would advise them to be zealous, religious and frankly almost manically committed to minimizing the chance spreading of the virus,” Mayer told Adam Schefter on his May 18 podcast.

Because he’s so far removed from his fight with cancer, Conner told Schefter on the same podcast episode that he isn’t too worried.

“I don’t want to downplay it and have people think I don’t think it’s an issue or anything like that,” Conner said. “I just believe that we’re just going to be doing what we’re doing, and our bodies are meant to go through things and overcome it and get immune to things such as that. I hope everybody stays safe, but I’m not too concerned.”

Also during Tuesday’s conference call, Conner addressed how he’s using his platform as a prominent professional athlete in the wake of the protests spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody last week.

“What’s going on is very wrong, but for me, I’m going to promote togetherness and unity,” he said. “We need change, but it starts with, as cliche as it sounds, it starts with hope. The younger generation coming up, it’s on us and young parents to teach their kids about unity and togetherness and how we’re stronger together.”

The Steelers haven’t released any public statements since Floyd’s death or the ensuing protests, but Conner said the team has had discussions about it.

“We definitely talked about it,” Conner said. “And I don’t feel it’s my place to talk for the whole organization. We definitely know and feel what’s going on. We’re impacted by it. I can just speak for myself, I know a lot of the guys feel the same way. Change needs to be done and it needs to be done quick. We definitely talked about things, and we’re hopeful that things will get better as well.”

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