Billions of people worldwide will receive vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and some will temporarily feel a sore arm, fever or muscle aches. But reaching for some common painkillers could blunt the effect of the vaccine, experts say.
Mahyar Etminan, an associate professor of of ophthalmology, pharmacology and medicine at the University of British Columbia, looked at data on taking medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before or close to the time of vaccination.
“Given that a lot of people would probably resort to using these drugs once they’re vaccinated, if they still have aches and pains, I thought to put the data into perspective,” said Etminan, who has a background in pharmacy, pharmacology and epidemiology.
The jury is out on what happens to a person’s immune system after a COVID-19 vaccine if the person has taken those medications. But based on research on other vaccines like for the flu, there may be a blunting effect on immune response from the pills.
“If you tell people not to take them and they don’t like the side-effects they’re experiencing, that may lead to non-compliance with the second dose,” Etminan said. “I think it is an important sort of question to look at scientifically and also to tell patients.”
Why might fever-reducing meds interfere with our immune response after vaccination?
It has to do with what’s happening when our temperature rises to fight off an infection.
Dr. Sharon Evans, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., works on training the immune system to attack cancer. She became interested in fever because it is such a common response across animals that walk or fly, even cold-blooded ones.
Before the pandemic, Evans and her colleagues wrote a review on how fever generally helps to reduce the severity and length of illness.
Evans called fever “incredible” for its ability to boost all the components needed for a protective immune response.
Fever “literally mobilizes the cells, it moves them in the body into the right place at the right time,” Evans said.
There’s also good evidence that inflammation, even without fever, can boost immune responses, she said.
Fever pills generally not recommended before vaccines
In a preprint to be published in the journal CHEST, Etimanan and his colleagues noted that a randomized trial looking at infants given acetaminophen immediately following vaccination showed lowered antibody levels compared with other infants who had not been given acetaminophen.
Another study in adults did not find their antibody levels fell after being vaccinated and taking acetaminophen. Immune responses can differ between children and adults.
Evans said the ability to mount a strong immune response also tends to go down as we age.
“What’s the difference between different age groups, different types of anti-inflammatory or antipyretics?” Evans said. “They’re all likely to be important and we just don’t know the answer.”
In the absence of those answers, authorities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization say the use of antipyretics or fever-reducing medications is not recommended before or at the time of vaccination. They are approved in the days after vaccination.
For COVID-19 vaccines, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) gives similar advice.
“NACI recommends that prophylactic oral analgesics or antipyretics (e.g., acetaminophen or ibuprofen) should not be routinely used before or at the time of vaccination, but their use is not a contraindication to vaccination,” according to the Government of Canada’s website. “Oral analgesics or antipyretics may be considered for the management of adverse events (e.g., pain or fever, respectively), if they occur after vaccination.”
The side-effects of vaccination such as a sore arm at the site of injection or wider effects like headache, fatigue, fever, muscle and joint soreness, while uncomfortable, are generally mild.
Bright side of mild vaccine side-effects
“All those side-effects are like a bell ringer telling you that your body is ramping up immune response,” Evans said. “It’s what you want. It’s sometimes disappointing if you didn’t get that response.”
If you do spike a fever after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, Evans said the best advice is to stay home and ride it out.
If the temperature reaches 39.4 C or 103 F, redness or tenderness in the arm increases after a day or if side-effects don’t go away after a few days, the CDC says call your doctor.
WATCH | How Canada’s other vaccine candidates for COVID-19 stack up:
Canada has other vaccines in line for approval — how they compare to the ones already being rolled out and how COVID-19 variants are a complicating factor. 2:03
Likewise, if you’re regularly taking anti-inflammatory or pain and fever-relieving medications for a chronic condition, Evans suggests contacting your doctor about what to do about taking the medications around the time of COVID-19 vaccinations.
The CDC suggests holding a cool, wet washcloth over the area of the shot and exercising that arm. For fever, drink lots of fluids and dress lightly.
Dr. Joanne Langley is a pediatric infectious disease physician and a professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University. Since last spring, she also has been co-chair of the task force that has been advising the federal government on COVID-19 vaccine procurement.
Interruptions in deliveries of vaccine doses to Canada have led to a tense debate about the Liberal government’s handling of the issue. Langley has been invited to speak the health and industry committees of the House of Commons later this month, but she spoke to CBC News this week about her role and how she sees Canada’s situation.
Langley says task force members were assembled by the federal government in late May and early June of last year. The task force then began to evaluate the scientific, technical and logistical merits of potential vaccine suppliers.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Who are the candidates at that point?
A: So there were two strains. There was domestic and international. For the domestic, ISED [Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada] put out a call to any company for Strategic Innovation Fund [SIF] proposals. So there were, I think, 22 submissions to SIF from Canadian sites. And so we reviewed all of those. That was how we knew what was the potential in Canada.
We also did a more proactive review, and there was a vendor that went and basically tracked down every single company in Canada that had anything to do with vaccines, drugs, biologics, and looked at what their capacity was. We reviewed all those under this rubric. We had meetings with the proponents. ISED did due diligence on them.
We had particular questions that we would want answered. And then we made recommendations to ministers about those products. And we only speak about the ones that received funding because if they didn’t receive funding for their own benefit, those are confidential.
And then internationally, what we did was basically track down around the world what vaccines were in what phase. So the WHO [World Health Organization] quite early on started tracking every single vaccine and what phase it was in. And so we reviewed those proponents and determined what [were] the most likely ones that were going to deliver a vaccine in 2021 — at that time, I don’t think we thought we’d have a vaccine by December of 2020.
And then we reached out to them and had meetings with them again and asked some questions in order to satisfy ourselves that they had scientific and technical merit, and also inquired about opportunities for partnering with Canadian universities or businesses or governmental scientists, or any possibility of bringing something here to Canada, rather than just buying the product …
Q: And was it the task force that came up with this approach of diversifying Canada’s purchases and going to seven different suppliers?
A: Yes, we recommended a portfolio. And there’s a number of different platforms. All of the vaccines we recommended fell into one of three platforms.
Q: A lot of attention is now on this question of domestic capacity and domestic manufacturing. Can you explain why … we didn’t end up with domestic manufacturing of vaccines?
A: I think we are going to have domestic bio-manufacturing of vaccines. So Medicago will ultimately be on Canadian soil. Novavax is another one. There are other announcements that will, I’m sure, be made in the coming weeks. But there is quite a strong bio-manufacturing strategy that has been determined and will unfold.
Q: The question that seems to get posed is, why don’t we have domestic manufacturing up and running right now? Why didn’t we pursue some kind of domestic manufacturing that would be up and running right now?
A: Okay, so that would be over a period of, say, August until now, about six months. The NRC [National Research Council] buildout started in the fall. So it started within months of these task forces being built.
These are not manufacturing processes that can be built in a month or two, or three or four or five or six, even. Some of them have to be explosion-proof. Some rooms have to be sterile. You have to have the highly qualified personnel who can do the tech transfer, who can receive the training and then demonstrate that they can produce the vaccine. These are processes that are very, very meticulous and have extremely high standards. And Health Canada, the regulator, is testing the batches that you’re producing.
These are biologics processes. If you had a farmer growing something in a field, you can’t just say, ‘Well, could you just grow that faster, please?’– Dr. Joanne Langley
So to get that kind of whole process of building a plant, getting the machinery in place, getting the highly qualified personnel to make the vaccine and then scale it up, fill and finish it and deliver it out and pass regulatory approval — that wouldn’t be able to be done in the period from, you know, August to January. But the NRC proposal was ultimately approved and they have started. The Medicago plant was already starting to be built at the beginning of the pandemic, so they just continued that.
I think the overall story is that there was effort put towards bio-manufacturing. It’s not something that happens on the turn of a dime. And my colleague Alan Bernstein had a very good kind of simile … Say that you were invited to dinner and you spent the entire day making this dinner for your two friends and you salted it perfectly and the right amount of turmeric, all these things. You know, it was in the oven for three minutes, not four, and after the meal, they say, “OK, this is just perfect. Can you make exactly the same thing for a thousand people two days from now?”
You know, these are biologics processes. If you had a farmer growing something in a field, you can’t just say, “Well, could you just grow that faster, please?” It’s not realistic to think that you could in a month or two have one of these huge bio-manufacturing plants up and running.
Q: One of the examples that gets cited is the United Kingdom, and the question of whether Canada could have expanded capacity or set up capacity as fast as they seem to have. Does that seem like a realistic possibility to you?
A: Well, the presumption there is that the U.K. didn’t have capacity. They already had several manufacturing plants for international vaccines. So it’s not true that they started from zero. That is really one of the myths that is circulating. They did accelerate what they were doing and they added capacity, but they already were producing huge amounts of vaccines.
A: In hindsight, is it possible that if the task force had gotten started even earlier … in March or February or January of last year, that Canada would be in a different place right now?
A: I suppose anything’s possible. It’s hard to say. I think we worked as hard as we could at the time we started our work together. I think someone tallied up and we had like 400 hours worth of meetings in the first few weeks because there was just such a sense of urgency.
And I really can’t speak to what is really kind of imaginary, to think of what might have happened had we met earlier. There certainly wouldn’t have been any data to review if we’d started in March because the first vaccine was the Moderna and they started [Phase I trials in March].
Certainly there was no idea that it was going to be our Canadian vaccine. It was just one of many international candidates …– Dr. Langley on the CanSino project
Q: One of the other things that’s been given a lot of attention is the CanSino project. Was that a significant setback for Canada? In addition to obviously falling through, did it distract or detract from the larger effort to get a vaccine?
A: My personal view would be that it was one of the vaccines that was evaluated, just like all the other international candidates. It wasn’t higher on the priority list. Every potential vaccine candidate was reviewed. So it wasn’t — certainly there was no idea that it was going to be our Canadian vaccine. It was just one of many international candidates that we looked at with scrutiny.
Q: In the last little while, a couple of companies have come forward and said, “We could help, or we could have helped.” Providence being one, PnuVax being the other. Is it possible to say why you didn’t recommend going with those options?
A: So as I said, anyone who submitted a request to the SIF Fund, if they were funded, then that information is public. But some of the information is confidential. And some of those people that proposed applications to ISED — I can’t say things about them that are confidential. So we only speak of the ones that were highly ranked and that were funded ultimately.
Q: Is it possible to say what was decisive about the domestic ones that you did go with?
A: I would say it’s multi-factorial. So really, they had to tick off a lot of boxes of having a good product that in all the data that they presented to us looked like it would be effective against the virus, that would induce an immune response, that would be safe for the host. That they had the experience with clinical development of vaccines or could benefit by partnering very quickly with other people who had that capacity that could scale up their product. That they were a financially stable company. And all of those things were looked at.
We wouldn’t have taken something that could scale but that wasn’t safe and effective, or that was safe and effective but there was no chance that you could make that vaccine in sufficient quantity. So really, all of those aspects were considered for every vaccine.
Q: Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said that she went to the international suppliers that the government ended up signing contracts with and asked whether they would be interested in domestic manufacturing in Canada and that, in every case, they essentially said it wasn’t possible. Should that surprise us?
A: What the minister has said … is consistent with that strategy, that we would look for that in every instance, to see where we could partner with Canadian scientists or businesses or could they even just fill and finish on our soil.
So there are many considerations for these vaccine companies. Ultimately, they have a responsibility to deliver a product and they have timelines they must abide by. They’re making vaccines — ultimately, most of them — for one or two billion people.
So there is a lot of effort if you don’t have a plant all ready to go that could produce that volume of vaccines that you need to consider when you’re thinking, “Should I make this partnering agreement?” So all those things would be considered by those companies and, ultimately, they may have already had agreements or they may want to use their own plant.
We had many good discussions about that. And ultimately, one is a possibility. And who knows, there may be more in the future. The story’s not completely written yet.
Q: I don’t know if this has even been suggested, but just to throw it out there — was it ever considered whether we could have somehow gotten involved with the U.S. initiative Operation Warp Speed?
A: I think one would have to consider whether at the time of the previous administration, there would be interest in partnering with other countries to make vaccines for Canadians.
Q: Can you say whether it was considered?
A: We looked at everything. We met with task forces in the U.K. and New Zealand, Australia, just to share ideas. We also met with some folks from Germany. So our thinking was not boxed in. We were being very creative, as were the ministries who were helping us, trying to create opportunities and do things in a new way. So I would say there was hardly anything that wasn’t considered.
Q: In the latest rankings, we were something like [39th] in vaccinations per capita. How should Canadians feel about that? Is there an explanation in your mind for why we’re at where we’re at?
A: So the immunization rollout is a provincial-territorial responsibility. I think at this point they’ve probably delivered all the vaccines that are available. But some provinces are holding back the second dose so that they make sure everyone gets their doses according to schedule, which is perfectly rational. And so I think we will be getting more vaccines.
We sometimes have to wait and be patient. But making a fuss about it does not solve the problem. And making demands doesn’t solve the problem.– Dr. Langley on vaccine delivery disruptions
It’s not unanticipated that there would be stoppages to vaccine supply. For those of us that have been working in vaccine science for two decades, that is routine because these are biologic processes. The general public may be used to, well — we’re ordering cars, why can’t you just put the wheels on and the engine and what’s the delay? It is very different for vaccines and for all biologics.
So I’m not surprised that there were interruptions to the supply chain. I am assured that everyone who’s manufacturing a vaccine at this time is working 24/7 to get them out as soon as possible. So when there’s supply chain problems, my approach would be, “Okay, find out what the problem is.” And then we sometimes have to wait and be patient. But making a fuss about it does not solve the problem. And making demands doesn’t solve the problem.
Q: But Canadians may ask, “Why do we seem to have fewer vaccines than a lot of European countries? Why do we seem to be behind so many countries?” Do you have an explanation for that?
A: I would say it’s probably just due to the schedule of when the shipping occurs and the timing of it. So there’s so many multilateral contracts, plus the COVAX contracts [and] every single country’s shipping time is something that’s usually kept confidential. They don’t publish those.
And also, if you have a smaller country with a smaller jurisdiction, with a smaller geographic area, you can deploy the vaccines you get much more quickly than we can in Canada, obviously, because our population is dispersed among rural and urban locations. It’s easier to deliver vaccines when everyone’s concentrated in the same geographical area.
Q: But would you then argue that this place that Canada is in right now was sort of unavoidable?
A: I would say that there’s [nearly] 200 countries in the world and everyone deserves vaccines. And I don’t think we should be putting so much attention on who gets them first and second and third. The production line is pumping out vaccines. We will get them in due time. And at the same time that people are pointing out, “Well … that’s terrible,” other people are saying … “Why don’t we expand our view beyond our own borders to the peoples of the world who need vaccines?”
Just be content for a little bit that we are going to get enough vaccines for all Canadians by September and worry less about are we getting them today or tomorrow, and do your best to get through this pandemic without spreading disease until you get the opportunity to have a vaccine. Because right now, many people in the world do not have that opportunity to look forward to.
Q: In hindsight, do you think there was anything you, the task force, could have done differently?
A: I don’t think so. There was a lot of learning along the way. I mean, we adapted as we went. We had a process of consultation that was really marvellous, where all views are entertained. And you don’t go into the discussion with a set point of view. You may have a completely different point of view after the consultation, which was wonderful because we’re all in such different areas, we can see different aspects of each issue. We’ll continue to do that.
You know, science is changing, the evidence is changing, the portfolio might need to change, but we’re committed to doing that change. Nothing is written in stone because we know that new information might emerge. And so, I think if you have that learning attitude, you can’t really look back and say, “Well, why didn’t we do this?” We did the best we could with the information that was available.
Q: Because I’m sure you’ve noticed there is a lot of angst about the fact that Canada is not doing better. And it feels like there’s a searching for — well, there must have been something Canada could have done differently to acquire quicker or more plentiful vaccines. Does it feel to you like there’s not an obvious alternative?
It’s very difficult for any one country to solve the problem of vaccines — even the U.S., who threw so much money at this, requires supply chains from other countries.– Dr. Langley on vaccine production
A: I mean, my alternative is quite an optimistic one. And it would be a world where we looked at these issues globally. So what we had to do for this pandemic is try and figure out a solution on the spot and try and create alliances to solve problems because all countries are really interdependent.
It’s very difficult for any one country to solve the problem of vaccines — even the U.S., who threw so much money at this, requires supply chains from other countries. So if on a global level the World Health Organization or some other international agency was able to secure bio-manufacturing at the start of a pandemic plan to make 14 billion doses of vaccines — if it was a two-dose schedule — I think that could have accelerated it rather than people in each country, all 200 of us, trying to figure out how we’re going to get vaccines.
If you look at climate change, it’s the Paris Accord where everyone makes a commitment to address the problem in a way that you’ve all agreed is scientifically and socially the best path forward — then you’re more likely to solve climate change. But each country on their own cannot solve climate change. Smallpox was solved because we took a global approach everywhere. The whole world agreed to have a particular strategy for smallpox elimination. And they did that country by country by country, and we eliminated smallpox.
So that would be my answer to the question of what could we have done better. I think it’s coming. I mean, COVAX is something like that. It’s not quite there, but it’s on the path to a global approach to these issues that threaten us all.
It’s Robert Lewandowski’s turn to try to stop Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo from winning the FIFA best player award.
The Bayern Munich forward joined the two standout players on the three-man shortlist announced Friday.
Lewandowski’s goals led Bayern to a sweep of titles this year — the Champions League, the German league, the German Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.
One of his 55 goals last season came in Bayern’s 8-2 rout of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Lewandowski could become only the second player — after Luka Modric in 2018 — to deny Messi or Ronaldo since their run of FIFA domination started in 2008. Messi has won the award six times while Ronaldo has won it five times.
Two Bayern players are among those whose career years were good enough only for third place in previous votes, Franck Ribery in 2013 and Manuel Neuer in 2014.
The women’s best player shortlist includes Lucy Bronze, Wendi Renard and Pernille Harder. Bronze and Renard are teammates who won the European title with Lyon last season. Harder played on the team that lost in the final, Wolfsburg.
Harder won the UEFA award as the best women’s player in Europe last season. Lewandowski won the men’s award.
Neither Messi nor Ronaldo made it onto the three-man shortlist for the European award, voted on by coaches of top European clubs and media. Kevin De Bruyne was runner-up and Neuer finished third.
The FIFA award was voted on by a four-part worldwide jury: national team coaches and captains, media and fans.
Voting has closed and the winners will be announced on Thursday at a virtual ceremony hosted by FIFA.
Bayern coach Hansi Flick, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa are in the running for the men’s coaching award. The coaching award in women’s soccer will be between Jean-Luc Vasseur of Lyon, Emma Hayes of Chelsea and Sarina Wiegman of the Dutch national team.
Soon, we’ll turn the calendar and finally be done with this year. It won’t really make a difference. We already know our arbitrary lines don’t stop the virus. But we’ll have made it through… something. Which is probably worth celebrating. Hey, these days, you take your pleasures where you can.
And that’s kind of what sports was about this year. To be honest, they only returned during a global pandemic because some very rich people could not bear becoming slightly less rich. But it still felt nice to get them back, no? Something familiar. Something normal. Something to do, anyway.
It’s a weird feeling to be picking the top Canadian athletes of the year right now. What these people did for our entertainment can’t compare to the contributions of, say, a nurse or a kindergarten teacher. But, still, they brought us some light in a dark time. And allowed us to imagine better days ahead.
Here’s how the three leading candidates for the Lou Marsh Trophy, which will be awarded on Tuesday, did that:
He just turned 20 a month ago, but the Edmontonian who was born in a refugee camp in Ghana is already one of the best young players in world soccer — and probably the most exciting one Canada has ever produced.
For someone his age, Davies’ accomplishments against top-shelf competition this year were astonishing. Germany’s Bundesliga, which is one of the best leagues in the world, named him rookie of the year after he helped Bayern Munich capture its eighth consecutive championship.
Davies also played a key role in Bayern’s winning the most prestigious title in club soccer — the UEFA Champions League.
His jaw-dropping run to set up a goal in a quarter-final trashing of Barcelona is one of the best soccer highlights of 2020, and it showcased Davies’ world-class speed, agility and ball skills. When Bayern went on to beat Paris Saint-Germain in the final, Davies became the first player from the Canadian men’s national team to win the Champions League.
Davies also would have had a chance to kick-start Canada’s quest to qualify for its first men’s World Cup since 1986, but the opening round of regional qualifying was pushed back to next year. The team is still likely to fall short this time. But, at the very least, the rise of Davies gives hope for 2026, when Canada is co-hosting.
WATCH | CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux on the year that was:
Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03
Canada’s most tantalizing young basketball player finally put it all together this year with a magical run in the NBA playoffs.
It started in the first round, where the 23-year-old Denver Nuggets guard dropped 50, 42 and 50 points on Utah in consecutive games. Only Michael Jordan (the greatest player of all time) and Jerry West (the guy depicted in the NBA logo) have scored more total points in three straight playoff games. Pretty good company.
Murray didn’t stop there. After Denver eliminated Utah, he scored 26, 21 and then 40 in Game 7 as the Nugget climbed out of a 3-1 series hole to upset Kawhi Leonard’s Clippers. Denver’s run ended in the Western final vs. the Lakers, but Murray averaged 25 points in the series.
Like Davies’ emergence on the soccer field, Murray’s boosts his national team’s hopes of snapping a long drought. Canada hasn’t reached the Olympics in men’s basketball since 2000, but can do so by winning a last-chance qualifying tournament in Victoria this summer.
Canada’s chances of making the Olympics (maybe even doing some damage in them) look a lot better now with a potential starting backcourt of Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, another rising star. Availability could be an issue with the NBA season pushed back, but the future of Canadian basketball has never looked brighter.
His type of work tends to go unnoticed (there are no offensive lineman on your fantasy football team) but Duvernay-Tardif played a vital role in a historic Super Bowl victory.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Quebecer’s blocking helped Kansas City win its first NFL title in 50 years and made it possible for young quarterback Patrick Mahomes to win Super Bowl MVP — the final step in his ascension to football superstardom.
A few weeks later, the pandemic hit, and we were reminded once again that Duvernay-Tardif is focused on a higher calling. As part of his off-season work toward becoming a physician, he treated residents in a long-term care home in Quebec.
After spending that time helping our most vulnerable people, Duvernay-Tardif decided it didn’t feel right to go back to protecting Mahomes. So he opted out of his multi-million-dollar NFL contract for this year to continue his medical training.
Duvernay-Tardif is nowhere near the athlete Davies and Murray are, and he’s not going to lift the fortunes of a Canadian national team. But it’s just good to know there’s someone like him out there.
WATCH | Who are athletes picking for 2020 Lou Marsh Trophy?:
The Lou Marsh trophy is awarded to Canada’s best athlete, as voted by the media. But what if athletes got a vote? We spoke to past winners, and surveyed Canadian athletes to see who they would pick as the 2020 winner. 4:36
An unfulfilled Toronto FC season that ended in a first-round playoff exit and the departure of popular coach Greg Vanney could still deliver something to celebrate Monday.
Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo is a leading contender to win the Landon Donovan Major League Soccer MVP Award. The 29-year-old from Seville is up against Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake, Seattle midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and forward Jordan Morris, and Los Angeles FC forward Diego Rossi for the honour.
All five were named to the league’s Best XI, while Blake was also voted goalkeeper of the year.
Also selected to the league all-star team in his 2019 debut season, Pozuelo is bidding to join Italian star Sebastian Giovinco (2015) as the only Toronto player to win the MVP award
For Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin, Pozuelo is the cream of the current crop.
“He’s one of the most fun, entertaining players to watch, plays with both feet, can get goals and assists,” Curtin said prior to meeting Toronto on Oct. 3.
The Spaniard tied for the MLS lead in assists with 10, while finishing tied for eighth in goals with nine. He led the league with five game-winning goals.
Pozuelo has also durable, the only Toronto player to start every game this season. He ranked ninth in the league in minutes played (2,015 minutes), missing just 55 minutes of the regular season.
‘He finds pockets and picks passes’
“In my eyes, he’s arguably the best player in the league,”Atlanta midfielder Mo Adams said prior to facing Toronto in mid-October.
“You’ve just got be mindful of not giving him too much space in terms of him getting his head up and threading passes between the lines,” he added. “He’s not as much of a dribbler like [Darlington] Nagbe or someone like that. But he’s really capable of splitting teams with his vision.”
“He’s definitely a great player,” added Atlanta defender Miles Robinson. “He finds those pockets and picks those passes that makes him elite in the league.”
Toronto’s reliance on Pozuelo was shown by the fact the team went 9-1-4 this season in games he registered a point. Including the playoffs, TFC was 4-5-1 when he didn’t.
Nursing an undisclosed injury for the stretch run, Pozuelo was held off the scoresheet in four of Toronto’s final five regular-season games (2-0-3). He scored the 84th-minute winner from the penalty spot in a 2-1 victory over Inter Miami on Nov. 1.
Still ailing, Pozuelo was not at his best in the 1-0 playoff loss to Nashville SC on Nov. 24. Injury, fatigue and months of living in a hotel room away from family appeared to take their toll.
Whether Pozuelo’s form in the final games of the season impacts MVP voting remains to be seen. Voting closed Nov. 9, the day after the regular season ended.
But he was dominant for stretches of the campaign.
He returned from lockdown with a vengeance in July at the MLS is Back Tournament, setting up Toronto’s first five goals, including four by Ayo Akinola. He was also red-hot in September, earning MLS player of the month honours with four goals and two assists in six games.
He scored in Toronto’s first match in October, but cooled off after that with two goals and one assist in TFC’s final nine games, including the playoff loss.
Pozuelo registered 12 goals and 12 assists in 30 games in his debut year despite joining Toronto on the heels of a full season in Belgium with KRC Genk.
He came into this season refreshed, with more time off during the lockdown. The energy showed in his renewed commitment to defence.
“People will talk about his right foot and his left foot and his ability to play a final ball and his ability to shoot from distance with both feet,” Curtin said in the leadup to Philadelphia’s decisive 5-0 win over visiting Toronto on Oct. 24. “But what I actually like the most with his game is just how hard he works defensively for a team.
“Oh, no,” the head of public health and epidemiology at Dalhousie University thought to herself. “Please don’t be anti-vaxxers or anti-maskers.”
As Kirkland read further, she realized they weren’t related to the pandemic at all.
One was a rally for alleged victims of a pediatric dentist, a second to demand reparations for former residents of Africville and the third was an anti-war protest about an upcoming security conference.
“Oh,” she said with relief. “Phew.”
Critical juncture for Atlantic bubble
The situation in the Atlantic bubble has been like night and day from the rest of Canada.
The four Atlantic provinces have managed to control the spread of COVID-19 through tight border restrictions, strict isolation of travellers and comprehensive tracing of outbreaks.
But Kirkland says much of the credit also belongs at an individual level.
“I do feel like the response from the public in the Atlantic region is different than other parts of the country,” she told CBC News.
“I think there’s also a certain amount of pride that we have been able to maintain the bubble, and I don’t think that people want to see it change.”
But it has changed, put on hiatus with the news Monday that Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador were pulling out of the bubble due to rising COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
“I am worried. I think that we’re on the brink and at a very, very critical juncture,” Kirkland said. “This is the point where we either make it or break it. We’ll keep numbers low or they will, like everywhere else, just begin to escalate and skyrocket.
“The window is narrowing — but we still have the potential to get it under control.”
‘Squandered’ sacrifices in Alberta
Elsewhere in the country, people are facing a much different situation.
Alberta is seeing COVID-19 cases skyrocket at an unprecedented rate, rising to more than 1,500 per day and even outpacing provinces such as Ontario despite only having a third of the population.
“I’ve been worried for many weeks now,” said Dr. Leyla Asadi, an infectious diseases physician in Edmonton. “I don’t know what the next two weeks will bring.”
Asadi says the situation in Alberta isn’t a result of individuals not following public health guidelines necessarily, but instead reflects that the province has been a victim of its own success.
When COVID-19 cases dropped to relatively low numbers in the summer, there was a reluctance to act on the part of the provincial government.
“We had great success and maybe that resulted in our leadership questioning the models and, because crisis was averted, perhaps they thought that the models just weren’t accurate,” she said.
“We’ve squandered our sacrifices from the summer, and now we’re in a really tough place.”
Premier Jason Kenney declared a state of emergency in Alberta Tuesday and implemented new public health measures to address the rising COVID-19 case numbers across the province, but stopped short of a lockdown.
Most indoor social gatherings are prohibited, while outdoor gatherings, weddings and funerals can have a maximum of 10 people. Masks are also mandatory in all indoor work places in Calgary and Edmonton, but not provincewide.
Unlike Nova Scotia, which instituted mandatory mask mandates on July 24 — a day when it reported no new cases — Alberta has hesitated.
Alberta’s daily reported COVID-19 cases now rival Ontario’s for the highest in the country, even though it has a third of the population. The province’s resistance to restrictions may be crumbling, but Alberta’s top doctor says a surge in hospitalizations is inevitable as cases ‘snowball.’ 2:02
Asadi, who was part of a group of experts who penned a letter to provincial leaders last month calling on them to put in place stricter restrictions, said before Kenney’s announcement that masks are “low-hanging fruit.”
“Having masks mandated provincially, that’s not going to negatively impact the economy in any way,” she said.
“If we act earlier then the measures can be more targeted and can be shorter in time. But now, I can’t see anything other than a strict lockdown getting us out of trouble — and it won’t even get us out of trouble.”
Reluctance to act ‘early and hard’ reason for surge
COVID-19 is spiralling out of control in many parts of the country, with a record high 5,713 cases in a single day this week.
Ontario and Manitoba also announced all-time high numbers of new COVID-19 cases, and millions of Canadians were plunged back into strict lockdowns in different parts of the country.
In response, Canada’s chief public health officer said provinces and territories need to be more proactive — and act sooner rather than later.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam talks to The National’s Andrew Chang about the holiday season and getting to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. 6:31
It’s not only the number of cases that are worsening; it’s who is being infected.
“The other huge problem that we have now are the inequities associated with this pandemic,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease physician with Sinai Health System in Toronto.
“Part of the reason I think that we’re not paying as much attention as we should be to the harm is that the harm is not predominantly occurring to the people in power in our society.”
McGeer is watching the worsening outbreaks across Canada through the eyes of a microbiologist who has decades of experience in infection prevention and control.
“I’m a little bit worried about what’s going to happen in Alberta,” McGeer said. “I think we’ll be cancelling surgery again, probably in order to cope with the ICU load three or four weeks from now.”
Surgeries such as hip and knee replacements could be cancelled down the road, as it can take up to two weeks for symptoms of COVID-19 to appear.
“The reason we’re having this surge is because we kept things open longer than we should have,” she said.
“The more cases you have when you act, the longer it takes to slow down and regain control and the more trouble you’re in going forward. So if we had put in measures two weeks before we did, then we might not be cancelling surgery.”
McGeer also acknowledges that politicians in Canada can only re-introduce safety measures when their citizens are behind them.
“If politicians move and they don’t have the population with them, then it’s not going to work either.”
McGeer advocates for preventative measures such as testing, tracing and isolatingindividuals who test positive to keep COVID-19 case counts low.
“It’s very clear that if we had been able to start this outbreak early and hard with preventive measures, if we’d been able to do the contact tracing, if we’d been willing to put people up in hotels for quarantine, we might be where Newfoundland is now,” she said. “And that has huge rewards.”
Those tantalizing rewards could help reinvigorate Canadians outside the Atlantic provinces who face a resurgence of COVID-19 cases and the hospitalizations and deaths that could follow the holiday season.
“I get how tired people are; I’m tired of it myself. But this is not about being tired,” McGeer said. “We just need to hold on until we can get vaccines, right? And they are coming.”
Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
Chase Claypool is having a rookie year for the ages
The Canadian NFL star scored his 10th touchdown on Sunday, which is the most ever through 10 games by a first-year receiver in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). Claypool has 39 catches for 559 yards and eight TDs (including an 84-yarder) and has rushed nine times for 22 yards and a pair of scores. The second-round draft pick out of Notre Dame (via Abbotsford, B.C.) has also helped the Pittsburgh Steelers to a perfect 10-0 start heading into their matchup with rival Baltimore on Thursday night.
With six games left, Claypool’s rookie reason could hardly be going any better. But how does it stack up with the greatest of all time? In terms of touchdowns scored (so we’re not including passing TDs), here are some of the most eye-catching rookie performances in NFL history:
Gale Sayers did it all. The Chicago Bears running back scored a rookie-record 22 touchdowns in only 14 games (two less than the current schedule) in 1965. This was the last year before the NFL and AFL began having their champions meet in what became known as the Super Bowl (the leagues merged in 1970, creating the modern NFL). Sayers was the definition of an all-purpose threat. He ran for 14 of his touchdowns, caught six and also scored on both a kickoff and punt return. Sayers died in September at age 77.
Randy Moss showed ’em. Seething all year after falling to the 21st pick in the draft because of concerns about his “character,” the ultra-talented Minnesota Vikings receiver went on a rampage to close the 1998 season. Moss had “only” six touchdowns catches through his first nine games, but he exploded for 11 in the final seven contests of the regular season (including back-to-back three-TD days) to finish with 17. That’s four more touchdowns than any rookie receiver has ever scored — even if you include rushing and kick-return scores, of which Moss did not have any.
Cam Newton rushed for 14 touchdowns. That’s right. The quarterback. No passer of any experience level has come close to running in as many scores in a single season as Newton did in 2011. In fact, he also owns the second-best total — 10 in his 2015 MVP year, which also came with Carolina. Of Newton’s 14 rushing TDs as a rookie, six were one-yarders and another was two yards. But Newton also reeled off touchdown runs of 49, 16, 14 (twice) and 11 yards. Oh, and he threw for 21 TDs and more than 4,000 yards.
Two players at the Canadian junior hockey team’s selection camp tested positive for the coronavirus. Hockey Canada said the unnamed players were in quarantine at the team’s hotel in Red Deer, Alta., where preparations are underway for the upcoming world junior championship. All camp activities, including a planned intrasquad game, were suspended for the day while everyone got tested. The world juniors are scheduled to open on Christmas Day in Edmonton. A bubble is being established around the Oilers’ arena, where all games will take place (almost certainly without fans). Defending-champion Canada plays its first game on Boxing Day vs. Germany. Read more about today’s positive tests here.
The last Canadian team left in the Major League Soccer playoffs plays tonight. Toronto FC faces Nashville at 6 p.m. ET in East Hartford, Conn. Toronto has been playing its home matches there because of the Canadian government’s pandemic-related restrictions. TFC went 13-5-5 this season to earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Nashville (8-7-8) defeated Miami 3-0 in a play-in game on Friday to grab the No. 7 seed. The entire playoff tournament is single elimination. The winner of tonight’s match faces No. 3 seed Columbus, which beat the New York Red Bulls 3-2 in their round-one matchup, on Sunday.
Winning an Olympic track medal should be easy for Moh Ahmed after all those years battling his twin brothers.
Ibrahim and Kadar are younger, but they were “feisty and competitive,” Moh says, going at it on the basketball court near the family’s home in St. Catharines, Ont., and on the soccer pitch. Before high school, it was usually the twins who made their teams while their older brother and his “immature” body got cut.
But Moh started running track at 13 and found his niche. His dream of reaching the Olympics came true in 2012, when he finished 18th in the 10,000 metres. Four years later in Rio, he dropped to 32nd in that event but placed fourth in the 5,000. Then, last year, he won bronze in the 5K at the world championships with a time of 13:01 (stare at that number for a bit, recreational runners). Now he’s got his sights set on his first Olympic medal this summer in Tokyo. Read more about Ahmed and how his sibling rivalry inspired him in this story by CBC Sports’ Doug Harrison.
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Wearing a mask is critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but rigorous tests conducted on behalf of CBC’s Marketplace found that while some work very well, others offer little protection from the particles that transmit the novel coronavirus. One type of mask can even spread those particles to others.
Months into the pandemic, there are still no standards for consumer masks. So Marketplace opted to compare more than two-dozen masks to what is commonly considered the gold standard in protecting health-care workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19 — the N95 mask.
Marketplace purchased the masks in stores and online from a variety of sellers. The masks were also made out of varying materials and featured different designs.
Marketplace put the masks through the rigorous National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standard test, conducted at a lower air-flow regimen to reflect normal breathing. The test is usually reserved for N95s and personal protective equipment (PPE) intended for health-care workers. A standard NIOSH aerosol test measures filtration efficiency, meaning the quantity of particles the mask filters out as the wearer breathes in.
An N95 mask must have a 95 per cent filtration efficiency.
“This is the benchmark test. And it’s actually useful because it allows us to compare consumer market masks to masks that we know a lot about,” said James Scott, a professor from the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. Scott is a specialist in bioaerosols and runs the lab where Marketplace‘s tests were run.
The test pulls a constant breath of air containing tiny salt particles through the mask material. The salt particles are similar in size to particles able to contain the coronavirus that might originate from droplets expelled by an infected person’s breath, cough or sneeze. During the test, samples of air inside and outside the mask are compared to see how effective the mask is at reducing the level of particles.
Previous tests on consumer masks have commonly looked at how masks can help block particles when coughing or sneezing and prevent transmission to others. But the Marketplace test shows that certain materials make some masks better at limiting wearers’ exposure by filtering what they breathe in, Scott said.
“Even fairly low-efficiency masks are actually quite effective at catching much larger particles. But, it takes a really good mask to catch the small ones as well. And we know that the virus will travel not only on the big ones but the small ones as well,” said Scott.
PHOTOS | A closer look at filtration efficiency of mask materials:
Polypropylene fabric masks as good as N95
Marketplace‘s test found some masks are just as good as an N95 when it comes to filtering out those potentially harmful particles, including one made with something called polypropylene fabric.
The consumer mask Marketplace tested with an inner layer of melt-blown, non-woven polypropylene fabric and outer layers of cotton had filtration efficiency rates as high as an N95. Scott said the combination of multiple materials contributed to the strong result.
“This is a really good example of multiple layers of different materials combining to make something greater than the sum of the parts,” said Scott.
Blue three-ply surgical-type masks
Blue three-ply surgical-type disposable masks also reported some of the highest filtration efficiency rates in the Marketplace test, which was of no surprise to Scott, as most contain that melt-blown, non-woven polypropylene fabric.
“It’s this interwoven matrix of fibre. Air needs to travel around each one of those fibres and it meets the next fibre and it needs to bend its path. So as it does that, those fabrics pull out lots and lots of particles,” said Scott.
Two-ply and three-ply cotton masks
Marketplace also tested a number of cotton masks, including a two-layer, 100 per cent cotton mask, and a three-layer, 100 per cent cotton mask. More layers of cotton didn’t necessarily mean a better mask. The three-layer cotton mask Marketplace tested did not perform well, but the two-layer cotton mask did.
There was also a noticeable jump in filtration efficiency in cotton masks made with a higher thread count.
Masks made with 600 and 680 thread count cotton had filtration efficiencies almost twice that of the other cotton masks tested. Scott said the weave of a fabric is critical when it comes to catching those potentially harmful particles.
When it comes to cotton masks, Marketplace‘s test suggested the tighter the weave, the better.
Scott points out that manufacturers of consumer masks are not currently required to disclose details about thread count, and without that information it’s difficult to say for certain what contributed to some cotton masks’ poorer performance.
Masks to avoid
Scott said consumers should avoid wearing valve masks. While they are useful for protecting someone from inhaling paint fumes or when working in a wood shop, they do not help control the spread of the virus.
The reason is simple.
“Air only moves through the filter part of the mask when air comes in. It doesn’t move through the filter to exhale. It moves through the valve,” he said. “So there’s nothing to intercept those particles that you may be shedding into the environment.”
Despite this, some members of the federal security force at Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa, mandated to provide physical security for parliamentarians, employees and visitors to the parliamentary precinct, have been wearing valve masks while on duty.
In an email, the Parliamentary Protective Service told Marketplace: “The masks issued by the Parliamentary Protective Service (the Service), despite having a valve, meet the criteria outlined by PHAC regarding the appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering. The Service has since replenished its stock with masks that do not include a breathing valve.”
Other masks to avoid
The neck gaiter-style mask and bandanas were among the poorest performing when it came to filtration efficiency rates. Scott said the thin, porous materials they are made from is likely the reason they did a poor job filtering out any potentially harmful particles, which is made worse by their loose fit.
A two-layer, 100 per cent rayon mask was also among the worst performing masks Marketplace tested for filtration efficiency.
Lack of standards, testing for consumer masks
Physician and infectious diseases specialist Monica Gandhi from the University of California, San Francisco expects mask requirements to be around for the foreseeable future, at least until there is enough of a safe and effective vaccine.
“I have become more and more convinced that they are one of the most important pillars of pandemic control,” said Gandhi.
As Marketplace‘s research has found that consumer masks protect the wearer in addition to others, public health agencies recently updated their guidelines to include that messaging.
Last week, Health Canada quietly updated its mask-wearing guidelines, adding “to protect yourself and others.” On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control went further, updating its recommendations in favour of masking by outlining a number of studies that point to masking as drastically reducing transmission of the disease for both the wearer and others.
WATCH | How masks protect not only others, but the wearer, too:
An infectious disease specialist cites research that suggests wearing a mask can lead to less severe illness from COVID-19 by limiting how much of the virus someone inhales. 0:35
“This is an incredibly exciting update from the CDC since messaging that allows the public to know that masks protect you as well as others will be more powerful in convincing skeptics that masks are important in public spaces to slow down spread and disease from COVID-19,” Gandhi said.
She also made note of research released in September that suggested wearing a mask can lead to less severe illness from COVID-19 by limiting how much of the virus someone inhales.
The CDC did not cite the study in its bulletin. However, Gandhi said there is accumulating data behind this hypothesis.
Regardless, she said: “Stressing that a mask protects you is getting out the same message we have been trying to convey for the past many months of the pandemic — that wearing a mask gives you a sense of control over your own destiny and protection. It is an important message.”
WATCH | These are the most effective face masks:
Marketplace put more than two dozen consumer masks to the test to see which ones do a better job at protecting you and why. 2:12
With rigorous standards in place for medical-grade masks in Canada and around the world, Scott anticipates standards for consumer masks are likely coming as a consequence of the pandemic.
Marketplace asked Health Canada why there is still no guidance on packaging for consumers with respect to mask performance, or best practices for manufacturers looking to make better masks.
Health Canada said that although it has not set out or endorsed any standards for face coverings, it is actively monitoring the development of standards for face coverings and may revise its position when new information becomes available.
Tips for finding the right mask
What to look for.
Start with something that fits you properly. Scott said a mask should fully cover your nose and chin, and be as tight fitting as possible around the rest of your face. If your glasses or sunglasses fog up when you are wearing your mask, you should choose another.
Scott suggests consumers look for masks made with multiple layers, and that at least one of them be cotton, preferably the highest thread count you can find.
The average person does not need the same level of protection as a health-care worker on the front lines, Scott said, noting that any mask is better than no mask at all.
Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
It looks like the NBA is coming back before Christmas — but that may not be soon enough for the Canadian men’s national team
Nothing is official yet, but the NBA and the players’ union are reportedly close to agreeing on a 72-game season that starts Dec. 22 and sees the Finals end before the Summer Olympics. ESPN reported that the union reps from each team were going to vote on the proposal today, and they were expected to approve it. Both sides expected the Dec. 22 start date to be settled by the end of the week, according to the report.
Other issues need to be worked out as well, including two related to the massive revenue losses caused by the pandemic. Those are the salary cap for next season and what percentage of players’ salaries will be held in escrow — and presumably kept by the owners because it doesn’t look like fans will be allowed back in arenas anytime soon (though owners are now reportedly hoping for limited seating in luxury boxes and courtside — the priciest areas). ESPN reported that, rather than withhold 35-40 per cent of players’ salaries for the upcoming season (roughly equal to the slice of revenue the league claims is lost by not having fans in attendance), owners will take back 18 per cent in each of the next two years to smooth out the financial hit a little for the players.
Assuming everything goes ahead as planned, the calendar will look like this: Draft on Nov. 18 (that’s already scheduled), free agency shortly after that, and training camps opening Dec. 1. The regular season should end in mid-May, allowing for a full playoff tournament to conclude by mid-July.
That would allow NBA players to compete in the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23. But it still leaves the Canadian men’s national team in a tricky spot. Their last-chance qualifier is scheduled for June 29-July 4 in Victoria, and Canada has to win the six-team tournament to reach the Olympics for the first time since 2000.
The Canadian team could be stronger than ever with NBA standouts Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander potentially forming an excellent backcourt, and a pretty deep pool of NBA talent to support them. But if, say, Murray’s Denver Nuggets are still alive in the playoffs at the end of June (they made the final four this year) or guys are just tired from a compressed season that’s starting very close to the end of the last one, Canada might go into that qualifier without some of its best players. Read more about how the teams hopes are tied to the NBA schedule in this story by CBC Sports’ Myles Dichter.
Vancouver still hasn’t decided if it will look into bidding on the 2030 Winter Olympics. City council voted last night to postpone the decision on whether to explore the possibility of a bid, likely until early in the new year. If they eventually decide to move ahead, the city would feel out the federal and provincial governments about funding for the bid (they cost a fair bit to prepare) and also seek input from the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees and local First Nations. Only then would a decision be made on whether to launch a bid. The person in government pushing hardest for one right now is city councillor Melissa De Genova, who thinks the Olympics could help Vancouver’s recovery from the pandemic. 2030 will mark 20 years since the city hosted the Winter Olympics, but some of the venues used for those Games are either obsolete or have been converted for other uses. Read more about Vancouver possibly exploring the possibility of another Olympic bid here.
Some Canadian skiers are being sent home from Europe because of coronavirus concerns. CTV reported that multiple members of Canada’s ski cross team contracted the virus in Switzerland, where they were training for the upcoming season, and that one of the athletes is “seriously ill.” Alpine Canada, the organization that oversees the ski cross team, among others, refused to comment on the report. But a spokesperson told CBC Sports that a decision was made to “relocate some teams to Canadian venues where athletes can take part in on-snow training in anticipation of World Cup races and the world championships.” Read more about the situation with Alpine Canada’s skiers here.
Milos Raonic reached the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters. This is a good tournament. It’s worth 1,000 rankings points to the winner (putting it in the tier below only the Grand Slams and the year-end ATP Finals) and the total purse is around $ 4.5 million US. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic decided to skip it, but No. 2 Rafael Nadal is playing (and picked up his 1,000th career win yesterday). Raonic, who’s ranked 17th in the world and seeded 10th in Paris, advanced to the final eight today by defeating unseeded Marcos Giron for his third straight-sets win in as many matches. His next opponent is 34th-ranked Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who beat Marin Cilic today.
Besides the International Swimming League races already mentioned, here’s what’s coming up:
Women’s golf: The second round of the Korean LPGA Tour’s Hana Financial Group Championship is streaming live here from midnight-3 a.m. ET, with a replay here from noon-3 p.m. ET.
Grand Prix of Figure Skating — Cup of China: The second Grand Prix of the season (Skate America was two weeks ago, then Skate Canada was cancelled) begins Friday at 2:30 a.m. ET with the opening round of the ice dance event. That’s followed immediately by the women’s, pairs and men’s short programs. The skates run until about 7 a.m. ET and you can stream them all live here.
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On Sunday afternoon in a mostly empty stadium in Pittsburgh, a largely unknown 22-year-old NFL rookie from Abbotsford, B.C., scored four touchdowns — three receiving, one rushing — to help the undefeated Steelers to a 38-29 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
In many ways, what Chase Claypool did was a fluke. A lot has to go right for even the best players to reach the endzone four times in one day. It’s happened eight times in the NFL in the past five years, and no rookie has done it since 2012.
But the man himself is no fluke. It may seem extremely early to say this about someone who’s four games into his pro career, but Claypool has all the ingredients to become the greatest NFL player Canada has ever produced. Here’s why:
His college pedigree
Claypool played four years at Notre Dame, which is not what it used to be but is still one of the better football programs. In his senior season last year, he put up monster numbers: 66 catches for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games.
Plenty of guys post impressive college stats and are never heard from again. NFL football is a different game. The players are bigger and stronger and yet somehow also faster, smarter and more athletic than they are in college. But what drew pro scouts to Claypool — and compelled Pittsburgh to use their second-round draft pick on him — was that he combined those big numbers at Notre Dame with NFL-grade physical traits.
In fact, even by the superhero-like standards of the NFL, Claypool’s body and athleticism stand out. At the scouting combine held before his draft, he measured in at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in an astonishing 4.42 seconds. Only one man at least that tall and at least that heavy has run that fast in the history of the combine: Calvin Johnson, who’s one of the best receivers in history and was such a renowned super-human physical freak that he was nicknamed “Megatron.” After Sunday’s performance, some have started calling Claypool “Mapletron.”
“He has got some God-given abilities that not many people in this world have,” veteran Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “He’s big, fast and strong and he’s very, very smart.”
NFL history is littered with players who had the body of a Greek god and put up jaw-dropping workout numbers but never developed the technical precision required to achieve true greatness. Like any rookie, Claypool still has work to do in that department. But his impressive college stats suggest he came into the pros with a solid foundation, and he put his impressive skill set on display in the four-touchdown game.
Two of Claypool’s TDs on Sunday, including the run, came on plays that started within five yards of the end zone and were mostly the result of excellent play designs and blocking. It says something that the Steelers’ coaches chose to give him the ball on those plays. But any reasonably skilled receiver or running back probably could have done the job.
The other two touchdowns better showcased Claypool’s tantalizing combination of athleticism and technical skills. He used those to get open against his primary defender, secure the catch and finish the play all the way to the endzone. His second TD of the day was the most impressive. On that one, he beat the man pressing him at the line of scrimmage with some excellent footwork to get wide open immediately and catch Roethlisberger’s pass. A safety moved in to stop him, but Claypool roasted him with a quick lateral move, turning what should have been a nice 15-yard gain into a 35-yard, highlight-reel touchdown.
Just the beginning 💪<br><br>📺 FOX 📱<a href=”https://t.co/tI5aUTu7te”>https://t.co/tI5aUTu7te</a> <a href=”https://t.co/fEzTUM6BvN”>pic.twitter.com/fEzTUM6BvN</a>
CBC Sports’ Dion Caputi, who’s an expert on NFL prospects and has covered the draft for years, likes what Claypool has shown so far. He’s also bullish on the receiver’s chances to get even better because of the “commitment and work ethic” that’s evident when studying tape of Claypool.
“There’s no degree of randomness to [his success] either,” Caputi says. “He’s exhibiting a real penchant for breaking press coverage at the hands of many big, physical modern NFL boundary corners he tends to be matched against.
“He creates his own opportunities with savvy route-running ability but can rely on his vertical skills and length to compensate when adjustments are required.”
Claypool really lucked out when Pittsburgh drafted him. Besides being one of the best-run and most consistently successful franchises in football, the Steelers have an outstanding track record in developing receivers they drafted outside the first round. Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Heinz Ward and Mike Wallace are among the middling prospects Pittsburgh has cultivated into stars in recent years.
Better yet, this year’s Steelers team surrounds Claypool with talent. Roethlisberger is in his twilight, but he’s a future hall-of-fame QB who still likes to sling it around. Smith-Schuster is a good No. 1 receiver, James Conner a solid running back and the offensive line is strong (a Steelers trademark). The defence is among the best in the NFL, so it’s often getting the ball back in the offence’s hands quickly. And Mike Tomlin is one of the most respected head coaches in the league.
To be honest, Canada has not produced a ton of good NFL players. Yes, Super Bowl MVP quarterback Mark Rypien, receiver Nate Burleson and two-way legend Bronko Nagurski were all born in Canada. But they moved to the States when they were toddlers, so we can’t really give the Canadian football system credit for their success.
As far as NFLers who were actually born and raised in Canada, many of the standouts are kickers. Eddie Murray was named a first-team All-Pro after his rookie season with Detroit in 1980, won the Super Bowl following the ’93 season with Dallas and stayed in the NFL into his mid-40s. Steve Christie, also an All-Pro as a rookie, spent 15 years in the league, hit numerous clutch kicks to help Buffalo win the last two of its four consecutive AFC titles and still holds the record for longest field goal in Super Bowl history. Another Oakville, Ont., native, Mike Vanderjagt, was for a time the most accurate leg in NFL history before the “idiot kicker” wore out his welcome with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
Honourable mention, as well, to defensive lineman Israel Idonije, who had a solid decade-long career (mostly with Chicago) in which he totalled 29 sacks, topping out with eight in 2010. And also to Kansas City offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a key member of the unit that protected Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes last year. The aspiring medical doctor opted out of this season to continue his work on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic in his native Quebec. His greatness clearly extends beyond the gridiron.
No disrespect to kickers and linemen — they’re unfathomably good at what they do. But they’re generally not stars. Football fans (especially casual ones) focus on the so-called “skill positions”: quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end. Those are the guys who rack up points for your fantasy football team, whose names go on replica jerseys, who get the cute insurance-company commercials.
Considering that, the bar Claypool needs to clear to be considered Canada’s greatest-ever NFL player is probably Rueben Mayes. The running back from North Battleford, Sask., had a phenomenal first season for New Orleans in 1986, rushing for 1,353 yards and eight touchdowns to win the offensive rookie of the year award. But his production tailed off after that and his career was cut short by injuries. Mayes was a significant player for only four seasons, finishing with 3,484 yards rushing, another 401 receiving and 23 touchdowns.
Mayes is also something of a cautionary tale for those hyping Claypool (like, for example, this newsletter). Pro football is an exciting but brutal way to make a living. Even the most talented and toughest players are always one snap away from a career-threatening injury (ask Dak Prescott). So Claypool has a long way to go and a lot of bullets to dodge. But all the pieces are in place for him to become the best player this country has ever sent to the NFL.
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