ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — When two thirds of the tight end room was quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 test, the assumption was that all of the affected players would return to the team after a couple weeks. Dawson Knox, Lee Smith, and Nate Becker did.
Tommy Sweeney didn't.
"I had to get the heart check. Doctors found something," Sweeney said. "And in conjunction with some others, they said that what we had to do is what we had to do. And I had to take three months off."
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle; over the last year, it has become thought of as a possible after-effect of contracting COVID-19. It isn't contagious; and it doesn't require quarantine. Instead, Sweeney had to shut down all physical activity for 90 days.
"Three months, that's a quarter of a year. That's a lot of time," Sweeney said. "The team goes on the road, and I'm sitting in my apartment watching them on CBS, or NBC, or whatever it was on."
Sweeney still did what he could throughout the 2020 season, but no physical activity coupled with the NFL's social distancing measures in place at team facilities, it was almost like the seventh-round pick missed out on an entire season.
"It's almost like he's a rookie all over again," offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said. "So he's just getting his feet back underneath him, you know? But he's a smart, tough, dependable guy."
In 2019, his true rookie year, the Boston College product dressed for six games. In those contests, Sweeney caught eight passes for 114 yards. This season, there's even more competition at tight end than there was two years ago.
"I've got to prove myself all over again," Sweeney said. "I just need to do my stuff when the ball comes to me."
Myocarditis affects roughly one in 10,000 people after they've recovered from a COVID-19 infection. Sweeney is the only known professional athlete to have been diagnosed. He has since been cleared and will participate in Buffalo's mandatory minicamp next week.