Tabeek: This is bigger than football and you can help

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I don't want to be accused of burying the lede here so I'll just come right out with it: I tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday and everything in my family's self-quarantined world came to a screeching halt.

The "new normal" we are all talking about and trying to embrace was completely turned upside down. You don't think it'll happen to you … until it does.

That's the only way I can sum up my feelings when I received that phone call while sitting on my couch during a virtual town hall meeting for work this past Friday.

My first thought was my family and whether or not I had exposed them. That's all I could think about as I stared at my youngest daughter who was standing in the kitchen while "Sheila" from the urgent care testing facility up in Dahlonega told me my test came back positive and that I must go into self-isolation immediately.

My next thought? I didn't want anyone outside my family to know. Not work, and especially not you – the public – you know, the NFL fans who come to AtlantaFalcons.com to read and talk football, certainly not coronavirus. You get enough of that everywhere else right now.

If anything, I want to be a diversion from all of the COVID-19 reports, not another story.

We all know that the NFL Draft is only a day away. For football junkies, the draft is like a three-day national holiday full of hope and countless possibilities.

More and more fans need an outlet, an escape, especially during this pandemic. And my job is to help provide one – through content like Straight from the Beek, my latest mock drafts or videos with Rich McKay, Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn talking about the draft prospects.

So why am I writing this?

You need to know that what happened to me can happen to you. I thought, as a family, we were doing everything we could.

We self-quarantined.

We practiced social distancing.

Only one of us would go to the grocery store, and we always washed our hands – before, after and whenever appropriate throughout the day. Lately we've been ordering groceries online and taking advantage of the curbside deliveries.

I still caught the virus and, truth be told, I really don't know if anyone else in my family has caught it, either. At least no one else is showing any symptoms.

I pray it stays that way.

And as I sit here coughing and struggling to take deep breaths during my fifth day of self-isolation (which is way worse than self-quarantining, by the way) one thing that's become so agonizingly clear to me is that I don't want others to have to go through what I'm going through.

First, don't let your guard down. Stay at home whenever possible, keep your distance from others, cover your mouths and wash your hands.

I had no symptoms at first, just a nagging little cough. Remember those days with ridiculously high pollen count here in the Atlanta area? I thought it was my allergies acting up.

But I kept coughing. So, I called my doctor and we talked via videoconference. Since I wasn't experiencing many of the symptoms for COVID-19, my doctor wrote me some prescriptions to help alleviate the cough, treat what he thought might be bronchitis and got me an inhaler to help me breathe easier.

Five days later, my cough and chest tightness worsened and I was feeling much worse.

My symptoms intensified and this has all become very real for me and my family. I'm not going to lie; it's scary. I had one of those unnerving "How did I get here again?" moments as I was driving into the drive-up testing center.

It hit me hard.

But I also experienced firsthand how dedicated, compassionate and brave the women and men on the frontlines of this pandemic are. I don't remember their names, but I'll never forget their faces or how at ease they made me feel in a tough moment.

I'm talking about the nurses, physician's assistants and doctors who do not have the option to stay at home and work remotely from their living rooms because they're working around the clock in hospitals, urgent care facilities and testing centers.

Look, I don't know how I got it. And I pray that I am through the worst of it.

But so many people can't say the same. Tens of thousands of people have died from this virus and many more have gotten seriously ill.

Just like the symptoms I experienced, this thing feels like a moving target. It's so unpredictable.

And even if you're not sick, this thing is affecting all of us – our schools, our jobs, our economy, our way of life. My brother and his wife aren't working. My sister-in-law has taken a furlough.

So, please, do your part. And if you get a minute, thank those brave souls on the frontlines, who willingly get up every single day and face this thing head-on, all while trying to help people like you and me stay healthy.

We need them more than ever right now.

Finally, since football is what connects us all here in this space, it's good to see the NFL stepping up to the plate.

We all know Falcons owner Arthur Blank has graciously donated more than $5 million to COVID-19 relief efforts and also set up a $1 million relief fund for stadium workers. Now NFL general managers and head coaches around the league – including Thomas Dimitroff and Dan Quinn – are each donating $8,000 to help.

The NFL is also hosting a "Draft-A-Thon" to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts, healthcare workers and others at the forefront of this pandemic. Things are uncertain for a lot of us, but if you're in a position where you can donate a few bucks, here's the link.

I'll end this with a thank you.

A few people have known I've been sick and battling this thing in isolation, and their daily check-ins and text messages have meant everything to me. Your words have made me laugh, inspired me and even brought tears (good ones) to my eyes. Tough times really do bring out the best in people. In this case, it's only reaffirmed what I already knew about you.

Stay safe out there, everyone.

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