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Inverness NFL star Jamie Gillan sympathises with Scottish sports still without fans as Cleveland Browns punter reflects on supporters being allowed back in some NFL stadiums

Jamie Gillan in action for the Cleveland Browns.
Jamie Gillan in action for the Cleveland Browns.

Inverness NFL star Jamie Gillan sympathises with sports in Scotland still deprived of having fans present.

Gillan, who plays for the Cleveland Browns, admits fans have been a big miss in the US, with his franchise permitted 12,000 spectators in their 68,000-capacity stadium.

Some teams in the NFL have been permitting fans in, depending on state rules around the coronavirus pandemic.

Half of the week 11 games this coming weekend will have spectators in attendance, with the Browns due to face the Philadelphia Eagles at their FirstEnergy Stadium.

Sports around Scotland have been largely without fans since March, with strict protocols in place from the Scottish Government. However, there have been a number of test events in football, with the new level system allowing supporters back into grounds in some areas.

Gillan said: “We’re 7-3 now which is pretty awesome and nobody can come to watch it! Normally the bars would be popping and pub owners would be doing really well. So it’s tough. But speaking to some friends back home it sounds like the lockdown has been stepping up a couple of gears in the cities.

“Over here, at least we’ve been able to go to certain places as long as we wear masks. It sounds like it’s been pretty brutal back home.”

The Browns are currently 7-3 from their first 10 games, with Gillan also disappointed more of their own fans cannot watch one of their most successful seasons in years.

He added: “It’s been awesome to hear some kind of noise. The first game we went out against Baltimore and had no crowd – for the first five minutes it felt like a practice. You’re trying to get yourself focused, so having the crowd has been great. You can see they’ve been great with the mask-wearing and being socially-distanced.

“My mum and dad went to a game and said the ‘mask police’ were on you, if you had it down and weren’t having a drink or something to eat. They’re practising everything they can to be safe so we can still get a football game going.”

Gillan, who played junior rugby for Highland RFC in Inverness and attended Culloden Academy, had his own brush with the virus earlier in the year.

Jamie Gillan had coronavirus earlier this year.

He tested positive for Covid-19 in July and was forced into quarantine, but was clear in time to start the new season.

Gillan said: “When I got it I had a couple of flu-like symptoms. My girlfriend got it too. It lasted about two or three days. Then I lost my sense of smell for about a month, but this was before people really understood how it worked. They had me quarantining for a lot longer than they would now.

“It was weird, as when I got over my flu-like symptoms and when I’m sitting there watching TV, you almost start making up symptoms in your head as you’re wondering if there’s going to be a second wave and will you get worse. You’re sitting there waiting for it to happen but it never did.

“The anxiety with a load of people is through the roof as you’re constantly trying to avoid it, be safe and not be that person that gets it again. We’re getting tested every day but at the same time, you can be as safe as you want and you can still touch the wrong surface in a grocery store. You’re just rolling the dice when you do things like that.”

It is a potentially momentous season for the Browns, who have not made the play-offs since 2002. They sit second in their division, the AFC North, behind the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0), with the four divisional winners and two best-placed other teams qualifying for the post-season.

Gillan added: “This place would just erupt if we made it to the post-season. People would go absolutely crazy. I heard what it was like when the Cavaliers won the NBA finals and that sounded wild.

“It will be that times 10 if the Browns can do anything along the lines of that. Everyone in the locker room knows what it means to the fans. So we want to do it for them and the city and they deserve it. We’ve always got that in the back of our heads.”

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