Three players for the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been diagnosed with MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) this season, including one player who has been hit twice with the infection.
Kicker Lawrence Tynes and guard Carl Nicks were both diagnosed with MRSA back in August, resulting from unsanitary conditions in the close quarters of an NFL locker room that caused infections in the feet of both players.
Staph infections are unfortunately common in NFL locker rooms, where sweaty and musty conditions allow for bacteria to thrive if proper cleaning and hygiene are not maintained. Staph infections, especially treatment-resistant ones, are especially dangerous and not only career-threatening but also life threatening.
The growth of MRSA at the Tampa Bay football facility inspired the team to sanitize the facility and even bring in outside help from Duke University’s DICON (Duke Infection Control Outreach Network) to help get rid of the issue.
Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON) Co-Director Dr. Deverick J. Anderson, recognized as the country’s leading authority on infections disease control, addressed the team and Buccaneers staff earlier on Friday.
Over the past two months the Buccaneers organization has been working with the world-renowned DICON and other infectious disease specialists to treat and educate its players, sanitize its training facility and install new health and safety protocol.
However, this post is about more than just the treatment issues.
First, the Bucs said to “spare no expense” in cleaning up the issue – this is presumably with regard to dollars invested in treatment of the facility with chemicals to kill the bacteria.
However, did the team consider a new layout of the facility so as to prevent the growth from having the proper conditions to grow? What about evaluating processes in containing and cleaning spaces and uniforms that get attacked with bacteria-ridden sweat and grossness? Has DICON explored all of this? (I’m assuming they are and/or have, but it’s unclear what they’ve done…and whether the Bucs will comply with new protocols.)
Not only that, but the original facility treatment in August wasn’t enough for keeping the bacteria from returning – Nicks has had the MRSA come back a second time. So what didn’t go properly that allowed it to return?
And look at the other costs of having this outbreak in the locker room. Nicks is an All-Pro offensive lineman and his absence is a major blow to the Bucs and their chances of making it to the playoffs.
Nicks’ infection is to the same toe that prematurely ended his season last year. The Bucs proceeded to lose five of their six games with the All-Pro guard out of the lineup [last year].
So now with Nicks out to get treatment, the currently 0-4 Bucs have an even steeper hill to climb to make the postseason. A bacteria-laced locker room that is improperly cleaned and maintained has weakened the Tampa Bay roster.
And now back to Lawrence Tynes. When players have been lost for the season due to staph infections and breakouts such as these, they are placed on Injured Reserve (IR) where they still collect pay and benefits because of football-related injuries or illness. A very talented kicker who has Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants, he has been placed on the non-football-injury (NFI) list because the Bucs claim his staph infection isn’t conclusively linked to what’s going on in their locker room. This is not the same as the IR – Tynes is not entitled to the same level of benefits as those who are placed on IR, and he is rightfully angry.
In an exclusive interview with FOX Sports on Saturday, Tynes broke his silence on the matter. He said the NFL Players Association is behind him and is preparing to file an expedited grievance in an attempt to force the Buccaneers to place him on Injured Reserve.
“This whole thing is wrong,” Tynes said by phone Saturday afternoon. “My biggest emphasis is I don’t want this to happen to any current or future player. I’m going to fight this thing as long as I have to, because this team should not be allowed to do this to players.
“If I drop a 45-pound plate on my foot while lifting weights in the weight room at the facility, it’s IR. So I just don’t understand how my situation is any different. I went to work, I kicked, I practiced, I cold-tubbed, I hot-tubbed, I showered for all those days there. I come up with MRSA and it’s a non-football injury? They’re basically trying to exonerate themselves of this, and I’m not going to allow it to happen.”
Tynes has filed a grievance against the team for failing to do the right thing. I can’t accurately calculate the cost difference for the Buccaneers to have the semi-inexpensive Tynes placed on the IR versus the costs saved by putting him on the NFI list and limiting his benefits, but the grievance and lawyer battles combined with the lost integrity of the organization not standing behind its players could prove to be even more expensive had they done the right thing in the first place.
The Bucs also claimed that Tynes had been responding well to the treatment to MRSA but Tynes’s wife Amanda disagreed. She shared a picture and a tweet:
I hear my husband is responding “well” to treatment. LOL! He’s NOT responding at all yet. This is our #bucslife
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could save a lot of face and time/expense if they stopped being heavy-handed and treated their players with respect.