Statesville’s Breon Borders is preparing for his fourth NFL season.
The process has been hardly routine for the 24-year-old Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback. The NFL schedule has been in flux since the coronavirus pandemic first impacted the country, and teams weren’t able to hold their normal organized team activities (OTAs) and rookie minicamps.
Meetings have been virtual with frequent league updates as it pertains to COVID 19.
“We’ve been kept in the loop,” Borders said. “The loop just hasn’t been looking good.”
This past week, the NFL cut the 2020 preseason in half and pushed back the start for exhibition games.
The first and fourth weeks of the preseason slate were eliminated. Canceling the first week of games provides a longer acclimation period as teams try to establish and implement protocols to diminish exposure to and transmission of the virus, while also providing additional time for players to work on conditioning.
Eliminating the final week creates a bigger buffer before the scheduled start of the season Sept. 10.
Teams still plan to have veterans report for training camp by July 28. Training will be done at each team’s home facility. That’s not typically the case in most instances.
“When we go back it’s going to be like a completely different camp,” Borders said. “We’ll be spread out more. You won’t have a roommate.
“We won’t be secluded from everything,” he added. “We’ll be at the stadium in Pittsburgh. Some will be staying in the hotel they put us in, but a lot of guys will be able to go to their homes. It’s not like the NBA where they’re going to be in a bubble at Disney. Everybody will be allowed to go home and be with family. … They’re leaving it up to us to be responsible.”
The former Statesville High and Duke standout DB has a family of his own now. He and longtime girlfriend Ineya Hairston have two children: son Breon Jr., age 2; and daughter Aspen, who is 7 months old.
Admittedly, the spread of coronavirus is a concern to Borders, but noting he intends to take all the proper precautions he said he isn’t too worried.
An outbreak in the NFL during a potential regular season would be bad news for a lot of reasons, Borders said.
“What if Patrick Mahomes gets the virus two weeks in?” he asked. “And he’s been in meetings and watching film with the backup QBs on the team and they get it. You can’t just call in a quarterback off the street.”
The what-if game isn’t his focus, though.
Just as he did each of the previous three years as a member of the Raiders, Bills and Jaguars, Borders is concentrated on being ready when he reports to camp.
It’s not unusual for admiring Statesville youth to watch him tackle skill development drills at Kimbrough Park. Borders accidently plowed over one of them recently when his defensive footwork accelerated during a break on the ball. The young boy went to the ground, but he held onto the ball.
The sequence was recorded. Borders shared it on his Facebook page, playfully noting that “No kids were harmed in the making of this video.”
All kidding aside, he marveled at the reception.
“You’ve got NFL receivers that don’t catch those,” Borders said.
He’ll soon be trying to shut down receivers and stand out on special teams with hopes of making the Steelers’ 53-man roster. Pittsburgh signed him in April.
The audition period will be somewhat shorter for everyone including Borders, who spent most of last season with Jacksonville but finished the campaign with the Washington Redskins.
Two preseason games. Not four.
“I know some might think that’s not enough games to show what I can do,” Borders said. “I look at it as I have an advantage. At this point I’m a veteran. I know what to expect. I can’t imagine a rookie that didn’t have to attend OTAs coming in and not knowing the playbook and the speed of the game.”
Pittsburgh marks the sixth stop for Borders.
Another change of scenery doesn’t bother him. He understands the NFL is a business and is thankful for this opportunity just as he was the others.
Of course, there is an aura associated with the Steelers.
“I’m excited to be part of the culture, from the coaches to the players to the fans,” Borders said. “I think it’s going to be a good year.”
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