Al 'Bubba' Baker Talks COVID-19, Football and More! September 18 2020
Given his professional experience in the NFL, Al 'Bubba' Baker has been getting a lot of questions from fans regarding the current season. Amidst a global pandemic, American football as we know it has changed dramatically — New rules, restrictions and guidelines being put in place to protect the safety of players and fans alike. With a pandemic underway and cultural divides at an all time high, we wondered — What would Al Baker do, if he were a professional player during these times? We interviewed him to find out.
1. During your career, how did you and your teammates address any major social issues of the time?
Al: One of the things we learned early on was that the right person needs to be the voice, which luckily wasn’t me [Laughs]. One of the big protests that occurred during the 1960s was with Olympic athletes raising their fists, which I found both offensive and confusing. I think the purpose of the protest was lost in the symbolism of the fist. Regardless, I think it’s important that athletes have a voice in what they believe in… so long as they are aware of the ramifications.
2. How important is it for players to use the NFL platform for social change during the 20-21 season, assuming they play?
Al: Very important — After all, who are we but people? A wise man that I trust very much once said: “Don’t confuse what you do with who you are” and football players are literally that. They put on their pants the same way that you do. For them, though, one of the most difficult things as players is to decide how to respond to social issues. If you speak out, you’re criticized, but if you sit back and say nothing, then the idea is that then you become part of the problem. You can’t win.
3. Without being in a bubble like the NHL and NBA playoffs, how will the NFL protect their players, families and fans?
Al: This is a sensitive question. I’ve heard that some coaches are wearing masks and shields, and I’ve even heard a rumor that referees can’t touch the ball anymore, so they’re definitely trying to play it safe. But the thing is… There’s no way to play safe football. We sweat, we touch and we’re in close contact throughout the game. I wonder about things like the showers — How are they being controlled/cleaned? Without a bubble, once players leave the locker room and see their families, aren’t we all exposed to everyone that each team member was exposed to? Why social distance then?
It’s complicated and I wish I had the answer… I’d be one popular man.
4. If you were still active in the NFL, would you play right now?
Al: I’ve been asked this question a lot, and it’s difficult to answer because I think that every situation is unique. How is the health of your immediate family? Do you have family members with pre-existing medical conditions that make them more at risk for COVID-19? Is anyone in your family or close circle pregnant, or have a young infant? Health aside, can you afford not to play?
When I try to make a decision on what I would do, my mind is all over the place. I wouldn’t want to be in a position to decide on that, and my hat goes off to the men that are.
5. Who is your pick to win the Super Bowl this year? Who will be a surprise team this season?
Al: Watching week 1 performance, Kansas City was impressive. I definitely think they’ll represent the AFC going into the playoffs. For the NFC, I think everybody needs to keep their eyes on the Green Bay Packers. I could easily see Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahone as the top billing for this year’s Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers has something to prove — They drafted a quarterback high and brought him in on the first round, and for guys like us, that’s a simple ‘oh no you didn’t!’ He’ll make sure to show up this year for sure. That’s what makes us athletes… Being challenged, then conquering those challenges.
Had I not seen any games yet though, a solid pick for the Super Bowl is always the Patriots. It’s really hard to discount Bill Belichick. Having Cam Newton as his quarterback will be interesting, and there’s no telling what he’ll be able to do with it… He’ll have to win games with his legs AND arm. Newton is probably one of the most impressive physical specimens in the NFL.
The Patriots win their division every year, won their opening game, and they’re consistent above all else. That’s just the New England Patriots, and I don’t think anyone would argue with that. They’re my dark horse and you should always keep an eye on them.
6. What are your favorite tailgate items and tips? Can you share your best rib tailgate recipe for the NFL season?
Al: With a grill, definitely boneless ribs and burgers. There’s nothing like it. They can be cooked from frozen and are so versatile in what you can do with them. You can dress up the burger if you want, and actually you can even put the boneless ribs on top of it for added flavor. The ribs can be cut up and used for nachos, sandwiches, quesadillas, mac & cheese… the list goes on. The key to the boneless ribs is that they’re already fully cooked, you just gotta heat ‘em up and eat ‘em up. They’re my number one.
I’m not just saying this because they’re my products, but because if you’re going to eat and celebrate with loved ones, you better do it eating some good (convenient) food!
7. Do you have a side that you bring to tailgates that you pair with these items?
Al: The easiest side is always coleslaw, macaroni or potato salad — They’re popular with everybody. I think the biggest thing with a tailgate or backyard BBQ is that you want something good quality that’s also convenient and easy to transport. Those three are definitely my go-tos.
Thanks for reading! We'd love to hear more about your opinions on these topics and join the conversation. Be sure to tag us on social media @BubbasQ60!