Just as the first tranche of players started arriving at their respective facilities in Kansas City and Houston to report for training camp, the NFL and the NFL Players Association came to an agreement about their Coronavirus testing protocols. Players, coaches and other essential personnel will be tested daily over a two-week span with the frequency of subsequent testing determined by whether or not the rate of positive tests can be kept below five percent.
Before people are cleared to enter team facilities, however, they will have to pass a pre-entry test: two tests separated by 72 hours will be performed, with players having to self-quarantine between them. For the New England Patriots, this process will be kicked off later this week: as first reported by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Covid-19 testing “could begin as early as Thursday” with the follow-up schedule adapted accordingly.
If a player is tested negatively, he will be allowed to enter the facility and conduct business as usual under the league’s protocols for returning players. If a test is positive, on the other hand, a distinction will be made between players showing Coronavirus symptoms or not:
- Positive test, no symptoms: If a test is positive but no symptoms have been developed, a return is prohibited until 10 days have passed since the first positive test or five days have passed since that first test if two consecutive tests separated by 24 hours turn out negative. Furthermore, club and NFL physicians will have to give the green light while local guidelines and requirements also need to be fulfilled.
- Positive test plus symptoms: If a test comes back positive and the tested individual has developed Coronavirus symptoms — most commonly fever, a dry cough and tiredness — he or she will not be allowed to return until at least 10 days have passed since those symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours since they last did. A return furthermore will have to be approved by club and NFL physicians while local guidelines and requirements also need to be fulfilled.
After undergoing the two separate Coronavirus tests, all of the players who passed them will go through medical checks and either be allowed to start practicing for the first time since the playoffs or be placed on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). Those medical checks, according to Howe, would take place over the weekend under the Patriots’ current plan to have their players return to Gillette Stadium.