The Doctor is in: Duvernay-Tardif returns to Chiefs after fighting COVID-19 on front lines

Jacob Lang
St. Joseph News-Press
Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (76) takes the field before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium. Duvernay-Tardif, a medical doctor, returned to the Chiefs this week after opting out of last season to help with the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last time Laurent Duvernay-Tardif stepped on a football field, he and the Kansas City Chiefs were lifting the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl 54. 

After more than a year of focusing on the other side of his career, the Canadian offensive lineman is back in Kansas City and ready to compete once again. 

Duvernay-Tardif, who famously finished his medical degree while playing in the NFL, spent the last year fighting COVID-19 on the front lines in Canada. He opted out of the 2020 season with the Chiefs, but always stated his intent to return to the team. 

Duvernay-Tardif said he's worn many different hats while working at a long-term care facility in Quebec. 

"Sometimes I was a nurse, sometimes I was an orderly, a resident. I was basically helping where help was needed," Duvernay-Tardif told reporters Tuesday after the team's first minicamp session. "It was tough, we lost a lot of patients and we know that long-term care facilities were pretty badly affected." 

But one thing he says he looked forward to every week was watching his teammates play on Sundays.

Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif speaks during a Super Bowl 54 news conference. Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out of the 2020 NFL season, said the Super Bowl victory is the last time he wore a Chiefs helmet.

"I don't regret my decision," Duvernay-Tardif said. "I think I was in the right place at the right moment, and I was able to put my medical training to use. But, for sure watching the game on Sunday, couldn't be prouder of the guys." 

One challenge Duvernay-Tardif said he faced during his time away was keeping his football mind sharp. Despite gyms being closed in Montreal, he said he was able to stay in good physical shape, but he's ready to get back to the game. 

"I think when it comes to football shape, there's no other treatment than just playing football," Duvernay-Tardif said. "So, I'm here, today was a great day, a great start and I'm looking forward to more practices. I think that's the key, is to get exposure, get some reps." 

Duvernay-Tardif said he's also been pursuing another goal in his time away from the game, starting a masters program in public health at Harvard. He said by doing so, he hopes to use his platform to better help patients. 

"Through public health, I can actually use that platform to promote health at a population level, through primary prevention and other action, and I think I can really have an impact," Duvernay-Tardif said. "I was like, 'Everything's going to be online this year because of COVID, so why not try to shoot for the moon and get into the best program in the world?' And I got admitted, so I'm pretty excited." 

It's been 500 days since Duvernay-Tardif stepped on the field at Super Bowl 54. Now, he said he's looking forward to rejoining his team and competing for a starting role once again. 

"The last time I put a helmet on before today was the Super Bowl in Miami, and we won it," Duvernay-Tardif said. "There's great memories from playing football with these guys, and I want to build that chemistry back and hopefully get a starting job in order to contribute to the team this year."