EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It has been a season of sacrifice, and not just for the New York Giants players, who can't go on trips or even relax at their offseason homes during this bye week. Daily COVID-19 tests and travel restrictions make that impossible this year.
The same burden falls on the coaching staff, many of whom never had the opportunity to get settled during this odd offseason. A handful of Giants assistants are living apart from their families this season. They either didn't have the time or didn't think it was worth uprooting their significant other and/or children given the uncertainties.
As tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens explained, "Everybody individually and collectively had to make a commitment to trying to stay safe and trying to do things the right way." That has meant adhering to daily testing even if it prohibits them from flying to see their families on rare days or weekends off.
Even when opportunities for family visits have happened, they have come with obstacles.
Special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey's family is in Houston. He's had one opportunity since the summer to get home and see his son, Trent, a top high school recruit, play tight end for Shadow Creek High School. While McGaughey, fresh off the plane, was pulling into the parking lot late for that game, he received a text that his son was hurt.
"I walk up to the stadium, I'm coming into the stadium up to the bleachers and I see him with this big wrap on his hand," McGaughey said. "As soon as he looked at me, I looked at him and he broke out crying. I knew something was wrong. To make a long story short, he dislocated a bone in his hand. He had to have surgery the next morning. I was literally there for 24 hours. By the time I got to the stadium we went straight to the emergency room. Picked him up, took him to the emergency room and he was in the hospital all night. I actually left the hospital at 4:30 in the morning to go home, get an hour of sleep, then hopped on a 9 or 8:30 [a.m.] flight, whatever it was, to get back here so I could COVID test.
"That's kind of been our situation as a family. Just to give you a little insight, it's never easy as a coach when you're away from your family and trying to do what's best for your family."
McGaughey's not alone in his plight, which also includes being away from his wife, Erika (who runs everything in his absence), and daughter, Taylor. There are others on the Giants staff constantly videoconferencing to stay up-to-date with the lives of their children.
The struggle also extends to the wives and kids of the assistants on the first-year staff of Joe Judge. Even those who did uproot their lives haven't had the opportunity to spend as much time together as they would during a typical season, which is especially important for those making the adjustment to an unfamiliar area of the country.
To many of the wives, it's almost as if they've half-moved. New players also face similar challenges, especially those joining teams during the season.
This is the NFL in 2020. Everybody is making the necessary sacrifices.
"For all the coaches and players, obviously it's something that we opted in to join this year, so we all knew there were going to be sacrifices involved," Judge said. "That doesn't make it any easier. We just have to be honest with ourselves when we look in the mirror and understand that it's tough, but we chose the tough. But I have a lot of sympathy for the players and the coaches.
"The weird thing about it is we've already played  games, and we haven't even had any kind of family function yet for the coaches, families getting together, the coaches and the players' families getting together. That's something we definitely want to have in the future. [But] ... people are getting to know each other, like we got to know each other through Zoom. The wives are getting to know each other through -- again -- text, phone, Zoom, things of that nature, doing Bible studies and some other things together."
The Giants remain one of the 13 teams that haven't had fans at home games this year. Some wives and kids have made the trips to Philadelphia or Washington, but it's not the same as the eight to 15 times (depending on preseason, postseason, etc.) they would be co-mingling with the Giants' other football families during a season.
Instead, they're being asked to be extra cautious as well. Their actions and interactions are crucial to the Giants' success, and Judge has been understanding of individual needs and requests this season.
He allowed wide receiver Derrick Dillon to go home and see his newborn daughter for several days this year, while still making sure he was getting paid. He recently told veteran safety Logan Ryan he should go take care of his wife when she had a medical emergency. He has also been flexible with his assistants, especially those with their families thousands of miles away, as long as they're still effective in their jobs.
"It's tough for each individual," Judge said. "That's the sacrifice we're making. But at the same time, you still have to acknowledge and respect that people are going through things outside this building that they have to choose to put aside when they walk in and not deter from what we're doing professionally."