The NFL and NFL Players Association took a major step forward Monday in making sure training camps open on time next week by agreeing on a COVID-19 testing protocol.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, players will be tested for the coronavirus every day for at least the first two weeks of training camp. If the rate of positive tests remains below 5 percent after the two-week mark, testing will occur every other day. In addition to players, coaches and staff members who are in close contact with the team will also be tested daily for at least the first two weeks.
Training camps are scheduled to open for all teams on July 28. Rookies and quarterbacks are scheduled to report this week, while all remaining players are due to show up next Tuesday.
Testing had been a major source of conflict between the league and the players, with the players arguing that they needed to be tested daily to assure a healthy environment. Several high-profile players, including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt tweeted Sunday that they wanted to see the league take further steps to make sure players were better protected during the pandemic.
“Getting ready to report this week hoping the @NFL will come to agreement with the safe and right protocols so we can feel protected playing the sport we love,” Mahomes, last season’s Super Bowl MVP, tweeted.
“We need Football! We need sports! We need hope!” Brees wrote. “The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL.”
As part of the testing protocol finalized on Monday, players will need more than one negative test before being allowed to enter team facilities, according to Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical advisor. If a player tests positive but doesn’t have any symptoms, he can return to the facility 10 days after the initial positive test, or if he tests negative for the virus within five days of the initial positive result. If a player has a positive test and exhibits symptoms, he can return after at least 10 days from the time symptoms first occurred and at least 72 hours have passed since he last experienced symptoms.
Players who are in close contact with anyone who has shown symptoms will be tested and isolated at the earliest possible moment. If a test comes back negative for that player and he doesn’t show symptoms, he can return to the facility but will undergo more frequent testing. If a player has close contact with someone who has tested positive, he would need two negative tests to be eligible to return to the team.
Still unresolved among the players and owners is the number of preseason games to be played. The players prefer to have no preseason games and use the summer to ramp up their training to a level that will allow them to be ready for the regular season, which begins on Sept. 10 when the Chiefs face the Texans in a nationally televised Thursday night game.
A source said Monday night the NFL offered to have no preseason games, but because it would be tied to other economic issues, an agreement remained uncertain.