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Toronto FC's Michael Bradley keeping busy during COVID-19 hiatus from play

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TORONTO — From rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle to checking in with teammates and helping his kids with Grade 2 math and science, Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley is keeping busy these days.

He hopes to squeeze in time to watch "The Last Dance," the new documentary about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Otherwise Bradley, whose kids are aged five and seven, is like the rest of us in these "crazy times, unprecedented times."

"Obviously everybody's had to readjust quickly and figure out new routines, new ways to still go about your daily life from home," he told a media conference call Monday.

"Certainly with kids, you're trying to keep them busy, happy, healthy, engaged. So there's a lot going on."

Bradley, who praised his MLS club for its efforts to help the players from providing exercise equipment to meals during the global pandemic, makes a point of keeping in regular contact with his teammates.

"Taking out even the part that says I'm captain, just as a friend and as a teammate on a human level, it's so important right now to be connected with guys," he said. "And to check up on guys and to make sure that everybody's doing well."

"Nobody has lived through anything like this," he added. "And so it's important to find any way you can to help yourself and people close to you through it."

Defender Omar Gonzalez lives close by so the two families sometimes get to chat in passing, one on the porch and the other on the sidewalk.

On the plus side, Bradley says his return from January ankle surgery is progressing well.

"I haven't missed a beat, so that part's been great," he said.

Tuesday marks 13 weeks since Bradley underwent surgery in New York City to repair his right ankle, injured in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle last November. Bradley says he is back running, among other things.

The original timeline for his recovery was four months, which takes him to late May. MLS has extended its hiatus to at least June 8, which is roughly the halfway part of the season.

So the suspension of play will likely mean the 32-year-old midfielder will not miss any matches. He acknowledged, on a personal level, it was a small silver lining.

"Having said all of that I'd give it back in two seconds for everybody else to have normal, and for everybody else around the world to have avoided some of the loss and the pain and heartbreak that people have been forced to endure."

"In times like this you look around and we all realize that there's so many more important things than sports and whether I miss two games, three games, five games, 10 games, 15, whatever," he added. "These are trivial things when you compare to other things that are going on in the world right now. It doesn't really matter.

"When we're out the other end and all of this stuff is a distant memory, then yeah you'll be able to say 'I missed a few less games.' But for the time being, that's not really on the front of my mind."

The timeline back for the league remains fluid, he said. While acknowledging he is no expert, he said he believes progress is needed on testing for the virus and ways to help people manage the symptom and get better.

"Ultimately, and this is certainly going to take time, there's got to be a vaccine. So what that all means in the short run, hard to say."

Bradley continues to exercise at home in a basement gym and at Toronto FC's training grounds, saying it is an "little bit eerie" working out with athletic trainer Shohei Miyauchi at the empty facility.

Bradley downplayed the injury when it happened. But the ankle did not respond to treatment and he underwent surgery Jan. 21.

The operation, to fix a loose cartilage fragment in his right ankle joint, was performed by Dr. Martin O'Malley, the same surgeon who repaired Kevin Durant's ruptured Achilles, suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against Toronto last June.

O'Malley had operated on Bradley's other foot at the end of the 2014 season.

Bradley was diplomatic when asked about striker Jozy Altidore's criticism of the team's medical staff. Altidore reacted to news of the delayed surgery by saying it was "handled poorly."

The TFC skipper said Altidore's comments were borne out of frustration and disappointment at his having to spend time on the sidelines.

"Look, for a zillion reasons, I have no real desire to go back and to spend any time worrying about what went on," added Bradley. "The old, most basic phrase of 'There's no use crying over spilt milk' is how I feel about a lot of things."

He said at the time he had "good, hard, honest direct conversations with everybody inside the club behind closed doors. And since then we've all moved on."

And he declined to wade into the discussions between the league and MLS Players Association on possible salary cuts during the suspension of play.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2020.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press