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Dr. Anthony Fauci is encouraging people to avoid Super Bowl parties this weekend as a way to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation’s top infectious disease expert doesn’t want the Super Bowl to turn into a super spreader.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, says when it comes to Super Bowl parties during the pandemic, people should “just lay low and cool it.”

He said during TV interviews Wednesday that now isn’t the time to invite people over for watch parties because of the possibility that they’re infected with the coronavirus and could sicken others. Big events like Sunday’s game in Tampa, Florida, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are always a cause for concern over the potential for virus spread, Fauci said.

“You don’t want parties with people that you haven’t had much contact with,” he said. “You just don’t know if they’re infected, so as difficult as that is, at least this time around, just lay low and cool it.”

The NFL has capped game attendance at 22,000 people because of the pandemic and citywide coronavirus mandates.

SECURITY: There is no specific threat of an attack connected to the Super Bowl and related events despite concerns about the rise of white supremacist extremism, law enforcement officials said.

The FBI has made several arrests in the Tampa area of people who allegedly took part in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. But Michael McPherson, chief of the Tampa FBI office, said no links have been found indicating something similar might occur surrounding Sunday’s game.

“We’re constantly looking at threats that happen around the country,” McPherson said at a news conference. “There are no credible threats to the Super Bowl, or any related activity, at this moment.”

CONCUSSIONS: Playing a season through a pandemic did not take the NFL’s attention off other health issues, specifically concussions, with the league finding those dropped about 5% in 2020.

Jeff Miller, NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy, said that the 2020 season is the third consecutive year when the NFL has had a reduction in concussions.

“This is progress. This is not a success,” Miller said. “We will continue to implement our concussion reduction strategy again, focused on rules, the implementation of those rules and changes as necessary, refining how our players practice.”

GIANTS: Saquon Barkley says his surgically repaired knee is doing well, though the star running back won’t set a target date for his return.

Barkley, the 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, tore his right ACL in Week 2 and missed the rest of the 2020 season. The Giants finished 6-10, one win short of winning the dreadful NFC East.

“I’m doing really well in rehab,” Barkley said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “Very lucky to have a great team around me, great trainers, great doctors. Everyone has been very beneficial to me and very helpful to me. So whenever the opportunity I’m able to get back on the football field with my team, I’m definitely going to cherish that moment and I just honestly can’t wait for that day to happen soon.”

Most players return from ACL injuries after around 10 months or less, so Barkley should be ready for the start of the 2021 season unless he suffers a setback.

Barkley, the No. 2 overall pick in 2018, ran for 1,307 yards that season and caught 91 passes for 721 yards as a rookie, with 15 total touchdowns. He had 1,441 yards from scrimmage in 2019 but missed three games because of a high ankle sprain.

SALUTE TO SERVICE: Atlanta Falcons executive Steve Cannon is the recipient of the NFL’s Salute to Service Award.

Now in its 10th year, the award recognizes exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community. It will be presented Saturday at NFL Honors, when The Associated Press announces its individual NFL awards.

USAA, a provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, will contribute $25,000 in Cannon’s honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches. The NFL and Falcons owner Arthur Blank will match USAA’s donation of $25,000, which will be donated to Cannon’s military charity of choice, Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund.

Cannon is the CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment, the company named for Blank that also includes the MLS Atlanta United team, and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He graduated with honors from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986, was an Airborne Ranger and served in West Germany during the fall of the Iron Curtain. He also served five years as an artillery officer.

LIONS: Detroit hired defensive line coach Todd Walsh, adding another veteran assistant to Dan Campbell’s staff.

Walsh was with the Jacksonville Jaguars the previous eight years. He also was an assistant in Seattle and Tampa Bay during his 15-year coaching career in the league.

The Lions also hired assistant wide receivers coach Seth Ryan, along with defensive assistants Kelvin Sheppard and Brian Duker.

Detroit is retooling mode under Campbell and its first-year general manager, Brad Holmes.

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