By Paul Burton

BOSTON (CBS) – From tackles to huddles, there is no doubt that football is not only a game of inches but also close contact and the coronavirus pandemic has made the game more challenging to play mentally for the athletes, coaches and the entire organization.

Dr. John Sullivan is a clinical sports psychologist and sports scientist. He worked with the New England Patriots for more than decade. He believes the emotional health of the players needs to be front and center. “If we are not taking care of our emotional health because emotions run the show in sport and life, we are not going to be ready to be present for our family, our loved ones. But we also won’t be ready on Sunday on every given down. So that’s why emotional health is so important,” Sullivan said.

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Sullivan said the amount of sleep the players get is crucial to their emotional health and performance. “Seven to ten hours that allows for neurological growth as well our immunity to spike and stay high. We have to be feeding in regular times it’s critically important and for muscle growth and food runs the brain,” Sullivan said.

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Dr. John Sullivan is a clinical sports psychologist (WBZ-TV)

So far this season four Patriot players have been put on the COVID-19 reserve list including quarterback Cam Newton. The players have the next few days off and return to the practice field on Wednesday.

Sullivan said this brief time out will be good for the players and their families. “Your athletes are more resilient when they understand how to manage their emotions as well as when you build a trust of sports medicine and sports science team,” Sullivan said.

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The Patriots next game against the Denver Broncos has been pushed back to next Sunday, just another audible these players have to make. “All of us are going through what you can call an extended time out of our life and missing out on the social connections and normality of things,” he said.

Paul Burton