For consider the typical day of the Bills’ quarantine quarterback, in Fromm’s own words during a Wednesday Zoom interview with the AJC:
“It starts off pretty normal, just like everybody else. Show up to work, get here have meetings. I’m in the meetings, but a little bit farther away than everybody else.
“During walk-throughs I’m a little bit farther away there, too. When everybody else goes to practice, I go to the weight room and I work out. Come out about halfway through practice, once again a little bit farther away than everybody else. I watch the team periods of practice and stay after and throw with a couple guys and throw with my buddy Ryan (Moore, a Bills office worker, admittedly no Stefon Diggs). He’s out here trying to make me better.”
This week, like every other, Fromm has one job above all others: Don’t get infected.
To prepare for the possibility of Josh Allen and Matt Barkley both being lost to COVID-19, the Bills have set aside their rookie just in case. A similar disaster struck Denver this season, when the Broncos third-string QB tested positive and the entire quarterback group was ruled out of a game against New Orleans because of close contact. They were forced to go with a practice-squad wide receiver who played a little quarterback in college. The results were predictably horrific.
Credit: Buffalo News
Credit: Buffalo News
This means that Fromm must operate in his own separate orbit, taking care not to interact with teammates in a way that he could get caught up in contact tracing should one test positive for the virus. This means he can’t practice with them. This means he is strongly encouraged to stay close to home when not at the practice facility (no hanging out at the Anchor Bar, gnawing wings). He hasn’t seen his family since this summer. And when on the sideline during a game, he can allow himself no big celebration when Allen throws a touchdown. Quarantine quarterback is a lonely position.
“I can give him a quick high-five. Probably don’t need to hug him or be around him for more than a couple minutes,” Fromm said Wednesday.
It’s a tough ask of a guy who has known nothing but being at the center — over the center, actually — of any game that’s involved him. At Georgia he fended off hotshots like Jacob Eason and Justin Fields, playing in 43 games, going to a national championship game, winning a conference championship. Then he left early for the draft, as the Bulldogs descended into quarterbacking confusion before settling on JT Daniels. Only to end up as this fallback that the Bills hope they never would have to use.
As Bills coach Sean McDermott told ESPN.com last month: “It wasn’t easy because not only did we separate a player from the team, but he’s also a rookie. And it’s hard enough to acclimate oneself and transition from college to the NFL game, and now to kind of be apart has made it all that much harder (for Fromm).”
Staying connected and staying sane in this detached role have been big challenges, best met with strong character.
“That’s tough. It has been a long season,” Fromm said. “You’re kind of distanced from everybody else. And you’re away from home. And when we’re out of the building we’re supposed to go home and sit inside and wait until the next day to come back to football. It’s tough building relationships and not being with people, that’s kind of what I miss. For me I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer and the (Bible) – the one thing keeping me sane is my faith.”
Getting out into the wild, away from it all and discovering the deer hunting in upstate New York has been therapeutic as well. “Put some meat in the freezer, but didn’t kill a big buck this year,” he said.
Naturally, Fromm has worried about how being out of the loop at practice might be affecting his NFL development and his future ability to compete for playing time. At Georgia, Fromm always was the good team player, handy with the fireproof quotes. Nothing has changed on that score.
“It’s on me to try to get better, I’m getting better in the weight room and making every rep count when I have them after practice,” he said. “Trying to pick up as much knowledge about the game where I can, learn as much as I can. It’s up to me to challenge myself every single day to get better.”
If it means anything, certain highly placed teammates have taken note of Fromm’s acceptance of a solitary, thankless role.
“He’s handled it with a lot of pride. He takes pride in his work, and it’s good to see a guy like that go in there and do his job,” Allen told the ESPN website. “He’s been a pleasure to be around. He’s grown a lot since he first got here, and he’s been awesome in the quarterback room.”
As Fromm has spent the bulk of this season out in the cold in frigid upstate New York, it’s only natural to imagine how different it would have been had he remained for his senior season at Georgia. Yeah, you think he could have started, and maybe even changed the course of a certain game in Jacksonville (while not presuming that he’d have finished the drill against Alabama)? You think he just might have been a centerpiece in Athens instead of Plan C in Buffalo?
Of course, Fromm watched this season as Jamie Newman opted out, and Georgia went from D’Wan Mathis to Stetson Bennett to Daniels at his old position. He predicts good things for Daniels next season. While reserving no regrets for himself. It would be completely out of character for him to spill any now.
“You can’t have any regrets, and I don’t,” he said. “I loved my time at the university, and I wouldn’t have traded it in for the world. Do you miss it sometimes? Yeah, absolutely. But no regrets.”
There is no going back. Only looking forward to a chance to get back into the rhythm of being a real teammate, of getting back into a huddle, and of trying to show the NFL something other than his accepting side. Because heaven help us all if the Bills require a quarantine quarterback for another season.