With the first players already having reported to their respective training camps earlier on Monday, the NFL and the NFL Players Association took a big step towards finalizing their Coronavirus protocols before the rest of players will report to camps all over the country: as first reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the league and the players union have agreed to conduct daily Covid-19 tests for at least the first two weeks of camp.
The NFLPA released the following statement shortly after the first report to effectively confirm it:
Our union has been pushing for the strongest testing, tracing and treatment protocols to keep our players safe. The testing protocols we agreed to are one critical factor that will help us return not work safely and give us the best chance to play and finish the season.
The testing procedure itself is pretty straight forward. Individuals who qualify for Tier 1 or Tier 2 status will get tested daily over the first two weeks of training camp, after which the league will scale back testing to every other day if the rate of positive tests falls below five percent. If the rate is not below five percent at that point, daily tests will continue until that number is reached. If it rises over five percent at any one point over the course of training camp, daily testing will be reintroduced.
The tiers mentioned were previously introduced by the league as part of its protocols for safely returning players to facilities. Tier 1 consists, among others, of players and necessary personnel such as coaches, athletic trainers and physicians who must have direct access to players. Tier 2, meanwhile, was defied as “non-playing personnel who need to be in close contact with players and other Tier 1 personnel” — a group including general managers, facility staff, trainers, physicians and equipment managers.
The league also informed its clubs that pre-entry testing will be performed before people are cleared to enter facilities ahead of training camp. Two tests separated by 72 hours will be performed, with players having to self-quarantine between them. The schedule presented by the NFL in the memo looks as follows (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport):
- Day 1: Covid-19 testing
- Day 2: No Covid-19 testing
- Day 3: No Covid-19 testing
- Day 4: Covid-19 testing
- Day 5: Daily Covid-19 testing begins; players may enter the club facility for the first time.
As an example for how this works, the two teams who saw rookies report to camp today — the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans, who will play in the NFL’s September 10 regular season opener — will have their players quarantine in the two days after the initial Covid-19 test. A second and final examination will then determine a players’ status for training camp: if he is negative, he can enter the facilities; if not, he will have to follow the league’s treatment response protocol.
Still, players are aware that testing alone is not the be-all and end-all of combatting the virus and ensuring an uninterrupted training camp and later regular season.
“Even if we’re all tested daily, that time it takes that we go home, somebody possibly goes out to eat, somebody has a friend or family member flying in from outta town coming in to visit them, you don’t know what it can take,” said New England Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty recently on his Double Coverage podcast. “And then the next day you show up to the building. You may get tested that day, but then you’re not getting those results for another probably 20-24 hours and you’re still in the building and amongst everybody.”