Crusaders midfielder Philip Lowry - one of the Irish League stars who has battled Covid-19 - says he feels safe playing the game.
Lowry and his wife Elaine were self-isolating over Christmas after contracting the virus but they only suffered mild symptoms and the former Linfield ace was fit enough to feature in the Danske Bank Premiership games against Warrenpoint Town and Cliftonville this month.
Northern Ireland's top tier is allowed to be played behind closed doors as an elite sport, but the Northern Ireland Football League felt a suspension until January 23 was necessary in light of concerns expressed by some players, club officials and referees.
Crusaders drew 2-2 with Cliftonville in last Saturday's only Irish League game after positive cases resulted in four matches being postponed.
Lowry says he understands why clubs agreed to hit the pause button but he has no health and safety concerns taking to the pitch.
"From a playing perspective, I couldn't feel safer," said the 31-year-old.
"It is a different set-up this season and not the same camaraderie as previous years, but we are an elite sport and we have been reflecting that in our behaviour around the league.
"I think the players and staff have done the league proud and long may it continue because we don't know what's around the corner.
"What I will say is that in every stadium I have been to this year, I have felt more than safe.
"The protocols have been adhered to, there has been temperature checks, social distancing and face masks worn everywhere we have been.
"I have felt completely safe, and from speaking to my team-mates I believe they would echo that sentiment.
"The players have been happy to play but, given the number of cases, it's sensible to take a step back and assess things.
"Elaine and I had minimal symptoms, thankfully, and after adhering to all the protocols, we are through the other side of it now.
"You are thankful it wasn't too severe. Now hopefully we can get the vaccine rolled out and find a way out of this."
Lowry, who also played for Institute, Derry City and Portadown, believes NIFL made the right call in announcing a suspension.
“I think, given the media attention around the virus and the number of cases rising, from a moral perspective more than anything a break is the right thing to do,” he added.
“If we can help reduce the number of cases in the community then it’s the right decision.
“NIFL have shown some leadership. It’s hard to know if the break is long enough. NIFL will have another decision to make, and if we are allowed to play as an elite sport we have a responsibility to do it right and try to make it work.
“Hopefully we can get back to it against Larne on Saturday week.”
The football authorities are exploring how Covid-19 testing can be introduced to give players more confidence.
Lowry added: “It will help any players who might be apprehensive about picking up the virus.
“I do think if we are performing additional testing, we will see more cases emerge. That could lead to more isolation of players but that’s the reality of the situation we are in. Testing is a good idea, it’s a welcome aid.
“We should be as professional as we can be, and that has been the case, but it was probably inevitable that cases would occur.
“You only have to look at leagues across Europe. Premier League clubs have experienced it and I don’t believe we have taken our eye off the ball. There is no complacency, it’s the nature of the virus and unfortunately players will be infected. Crusaders handled the outbreak as advised by all the protocols.”
NIFL have a contingency plan should a 38-game league programme not be possible.
“It’s a fluid situation and hard to know what is around the corner,” added Lowry. “I know the intention is to play 38 games. That is the goal but it’s important we get clarity.
“You don’t want things left in limbo as clubs will have their own agenda when it comes to European places and prize money. If there is a plan to cut the season, let us know. The 38 games is what we’ve been striving for but safety is paramount and we may have to look at an alternative.”