by Elyse Dupre | Thu., May. 21, 2020 11:58 AM
It's been two months since the Premier League announced its suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the league took its first step toward getting back to the game by having clubs start small group training.
As part of the first phase of a new protocol, squads can now train while maintaining social distancing. They cannot, however, engage in contact training at this time.
"This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government," part of a statement from the Premier League read. "Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible. The health and wellbeing of all participants is the Premier League's priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process."
Teams—including Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea—posted photos and videos of players taking the field. Some of the images showed the athletes giving a thumbs-up and smiling.
However, not everyone seemed happy about the move.
On Tuesday, the Premier League confirmed that 748 players and club staff members were tested for coronavirus on Sunday, May 17 and Monday, May 18. Six tested positive from three clubs. The league made it clear that players or club staff who tested positive for COVID-19 needed to self-isolate for a period of seven days.
Still, some of the players were resistant to return. According to The Telegraph, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante returned to small group training on Tuesday after testing negative for coronavirus. However, he reportedly still had concerns about returning to practice amid the pandemic and was allegedly allowed to miss Wednesday's session with support of coach Frank Lampard.
Watford captain Troy Deeney also stated he would not return to training at this time.
"I don't want to be bringing that home," he told Eddie Hearn and Tony Bellew on the Talk the Talk YouTube series. "My son is like five months old. He has breathing difficulties, so I don't want to come home to put him in more danger."
Watford coach Nigel Pearson also told Sky Sports News "we have to respects players' views on returning."
The Premier League announced its suspension in March. It was one of the many sports leagues around the world to suspend its season. Meanwhile, Germany's Bundesliga is the first major European soccer league to return to the game amid the pandemic.