Before the start of this year’s training camp, the NFL and the Players Association came to an agreement on some ambitious Coronavirus testing protocols: players, coaches and other essential personnel would get screened daily over the first two weeks of training camp. The league would then either scale back testing to every other day if the rate of positive tests fell below five percent, or keep daily tests going until that number would be reached.
The NFL and the players union also agreed to create a new Reserve/Covid-19 list. Positive cases or those who had been in close contact with someone who had recently tested positive for the Coronavirus would be sent to the list, and spend up to 10 days there depending on whether tests came back positive or symptoms — including among others fever, cough, headache, and shortness of breath — were developed or not.
After Reserve/Covid-19 was officially implemented in late July it saw a total of 105 additions, including big-name players such as Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, or, just this week, Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. 84 players have since been removed from the list again, leaving 21 who are currently on it even though teams are not allowed to disclose any further medical information.
“I hope you can respect the fact that legally, by state and federal law, we’re not allowed to talk about that, so I’m not going to answer that question today or any other day,” said New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during a media conference call in late July. “I’m just simply not permitted to do that. So, that’s the way it is. Now, if an individual player wants to talk about his medical situation, that’s something else, but that’s not something that I’m permitted to do, so I’m not going to do it.”
Belichick’s team, meanwhile, is one of just five in the league to not yet send a player to the Reserve/Covid-19 list. Teams, of course, are required to immediately send players to the list in case they either test positive or have to be quarantined after having been in close contact with infected persons. New England had no such cases so far, sharing this distinction with the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans.
The Los Angeles Chargers are also on that list, even though their head coach, Anthony Lynn, revealed during Tuesday’s premiere of HBO’s Hard Knocks that he had been infected with the virus earlier this year. Of his players and other stuff members, however, none had tested positive despite around 2,000 tests being administered since late July — something that can also be said about the Patriots and the other three teams listed above.
“I think everybody’s just a little more conscious of the hand washing, the sanitizing, the distancing, we wear monitors and all that,” said Belichick about his team’s precautionary measures. “I don’t think it’s monumental, but certainly there are adjustments, none of which are I would say particularly inhibiting. It’s a little bit different, maybe a little bit more time consuming and just more precautionary, but I think we’ve tried to address everything.”