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Broncos coach Donatell on battling COVID: 'I think everybody should be nervous'

After missing six games with the virus, Broncos will have their defensive coordinator back coaching at Carolina this Sunday.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ed Donatell takes part in drills during an NFL football practice Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Ed Donatell thought he had his COVID illness licked on time.

Instead, about nine days after he fell ill with the novel virus, Donatell took a turn for the worse. Instead of resuming his duties as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator, he began a five-day stay in a local hospital.

Was he nervous?

“I think everybody should be nervous,’’ he said. “I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I didn't think so because there's so many unknowns about this virus. There are so many unknowns about it. It's not like a normal disease where people can tell you, 'Hey, this is what's happened in the past.' So, when you know all the research is ongoing, yeah, it puts up great interest. You're wondering how far is this thing going to go? But again, hats off to the medical team. They were right there with me, five-star treatment the whole way and ready to go.’’

Donatell, two months shy of his 64th birthday, said he had never missed a game in his life until COVID knocked him out for six games.

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“This thing went on longer than I wanted it to,’’ he said. “And really, when I was getting ready to come back, the virus hit me about the ninth day, and then I started getting really heavy symptoms. So, it got to a case where I was hospitalized for five days, and they gave me the meds I needed, then I returned home. 

And when something like that happens, it really weakens your body—five days. So, then you've got to battle back with your strength and cardio and that's where I am.’’

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He will accompany the team on its trip Saturday to Charlotte and coach the Broncos’ defense, from the coaches’ box, on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

“I just can't wait to get back,’’ he said. “The big takeaway is you miss the contact with people. That day-to-day contact with your players on the field, with your fellow coaches, coaching in games. I've never been deprived of that and that wasn't a lot of fun, but I learned some things. I learned how special a lot of things are in life to you, and how important your health is. There are times when you got to press the pause button and get it back to where it is. I couldn't be more juiced up to go to this game this week and coach and help our team.”

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