In today's world, you're encouraged to keep your hands as far away from your mouth as humanly possible to reduce the risk of infection, but licking one's hands was rather commonplace among professional athletes in the pre-COVID-19 world. The NBA and MLB have since banned players from licking their hands as they resume play and while the NFL has no current rule in place on the matter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is looking to kick the habit.
"The whole point is to help give your hands a little tackiness so you get better grip on the ball," Brees told Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com. "I've actually been thinking about it a lot lately as I've started throwing again. Trying to avoid it, but it has been so habitual for so long. You don't realize how much you touch your face and lick your fingers until COVID hit."
While Brees may only recently be awakened to the fact that licking his hand numerous times in the midst of an NFL game is less than sanitary, not everyone needed a global pandemic to realize it.
"It's so gross, even when there isn't COVID," said former NFL offensive tackle Ryan Harris. "And just look where he puts his hands the play before, the play after, and the play he's running when he licks his fingers. Do the math. Honestly, there are a lot of every-day, don't-give-it-a-second-thought things people are going to have to give a second thought about."
The NFL does have a number of protocols in place to help try and keep players safe amid the pandemic, including fines for players who enter high-risk areas when they leave team facilities. Self-policing, however, will be a major factor for players this season, especially as the NFL will be working without a bubble concept like the NBA and NHL have. While Brees kicking the hand licking habit may seem minute, it's a good example of the type of changes (big and small) that we'll see this season.
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