ATLANTA – The conversations that couples are having now, as they have become cellmates in the prison of a pandemic, are surely running low on kindling.
After "How's the toilet paper holding out?" and "showering daily -- pro or con?" the topics can only slide downward from there.
On Monday, though, Falcons safety Ricardo Allen and his wife, Grace, both of whom attended Purdue, wandered into one titled, "Rico and Grace Talk About the Power of Our Thoughts."
Before that last week, there was a monologue from Grace about the state of her pregnancy, the child stubbornly locked in a breech position. Time is running out on the prospects of a natural birth.
The two have encouraged eavesdropping on the discussions of an NFL player and his wife through a podcast -- "All in with the Allens" -- they began last month on the date of their fifth anniversary. As other spouses may be looking for a little bit of separation within the confines of self-quarantining, these two have invented another way to draw closer.
Listen to the 'All in with the Allens' podcast
All these years together -- the two met at Purdue, where Ricardo was playing football and Grace was beginning her master's work in public health -- and it has been possible to learn something new about each other through the podcast. For example, Ricardo didn't know that his wife was the first in her family to go to college until it came up in an episode. Maybe there is an upside to this communication thing.
As it is with most couples, the wife is the brains of the operation. Grace, who has written a lifestyle blog for years, is the one versed in all the modern platforms for sharing. Ricardo is the one who lends the experience of a Falcons fifth-round draft pick in 2014 who has been cut, moved from cornerback to safety, resurrected on the roster by coach Dan Quinn, signed a three-year, $19.5 million extension in 2018, come back from a torn Achilles and is now rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.
His motive for doing the podcast is straight-forward enough, the kind of sentiment you'd expect from the Falcons' Walter Payton Man of the Year for last season. "Put some good stuff out into the universe, put some good energy out," he said.
"I think that with so much media, it's not always positive and not always the whole story. I think it's really cool we have an opportunity to tell the stories ourselves," Grace added. "Being in the world of sports. Being an interracial couple. All the things we've lived through and have ahead of us -- being able to tell those stories with our own voices."
"You don't hear the best news about athletes being faithful to their wives and being stand-up men and being stand-up fathers. These are all stories that are true for us," she said.
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in these uncertain times, I am doing my best to focus more on the light; seeing the light, chasing the light, being the light. some days are easy and other days I feel myself spiraling. what felt like a sprint when this all started is proving to be a marathon. & in times like these, when literally everything is out of our control, there's never been a more important time to focus on controlling what we can-- and the only thing we can really- control is what goes on between our ears. so, im focusing on that & on them & praying that we are all better for this when it's over. #wearetheallens #motherhood #pregnancy #socialdistancing
A post shared by gracie allen (@grace.e.allen) on Apr 6, 2020 at 5:25pm PDT
It's not as if the two of them were exactly starving for something to do here during the coronavirus shutdown.
After all, two children, son Luca is 4, daughter Lennon is 2, have to be kept from going completely feral.
"I'll be honest and say in beginning, I had a little more structure for how I thought I wanted the days to go with the kids," Grace said. "They went from being in preschool three days a week, half-day, to now being home all the time. I wanted to incorporate learning in our day at home. In the beginning that was very black and white -- before you can have TV, we're going to do these worksheets with our breakfast. That's cool and that's fun and that works for the first 25 days. But by then I'm 25 days more pregnant, we're 25 days more into quarantine. And it turns into: OK, let's go into the backyard and talk about the ant pile, that's our general science lesson. Let's put on Disney's Oceans documentary and call that school for the day.
"The kids are still napping, going to bed at the same time, eating at the same time. The flexibility within the course of the day, that's a day-to-day thing."
And, then, there's a shoulder that must be rehabbed during a time when Ricardo has no access to the team's training facility. ("It's feeling good, I'm right on track to where I'm supposed to be right now. My body is coming back together," Ricardo reports.)
Being the driven sort, he'll still wake up before the sun and kick off some of the workout prelims before breakfast with the kids. As he's limited with some of the upper-body weight work, Ricardo said he is doing so much cardiovascular training, burning so many calories, that the Falcons are worried about him coming in too light whenever there is a training camp.
"We're going to come out of this sooner or later, and things are going to get back to normal. And I'm not going to be that one that's not ready," he said.
He has more time to read now, plowing through all kinds of books, tilting toward self-improvement and business and financial reading. Short on football tactics to plot just now, there are long-distance chess matches to conduct. And there's working on one's technique in the Push Two Kids in a Double Stroller Up and Down Subdivision Hills workout program.
Throw a podcast or three a week into the mix, just for variety. A couple of Falcons teammates already are on the hook to join Allen in an episode.
"It's cool for people to hear a different side of (Ricardo) that they never before have gotten to," Grace said. "They get to see the reasons our family loves and adores him the way we do, and it's so much more than just football."
So, you're saying this is a very good time to strengthen those ties that bind? So you're saying there is more to do with our time during the great lull than simply killing it?