Before the start of training camps all over the country in late July, the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed on a number of protocols aimed at safely returning players to team facilities in light of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis — from strict hygiene protocols, to ambitious testing on a daily basis, to the creation of a new Reserve/Covid-19 list and roster reductions. The goal was simple: make summer safe for players and team personnel alike.
One of the safest places in the league so far appears to be Foxoborough, Massachusetts. The New England Patriots, after all, are among just five teams in the league to not yet send a player to the Reserve/Covid-19 lis — a distinction the club shares with the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans.
When asked about his thoughts on this fact during a media conference call on Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised his organization’s handling of the situation.
“I think that the team and the organization have addressed this very professionally, strictly, and we’ve changed quite a bit as more information or different techniques or products or whatever have become available or our information has changed,” Belichick said. “We’ve been very fluid with this, the players have done a great job of following protocols, and we’ve also had a lot of great feedback from the players on things, suggestions.
“Because seeing it from an organizational point of view or a coach’s point of view is one thing, but when you’re a player, you see what you do on a daily basis maybe a little bit differently, and so their feedback has been great and we’ve made quite a few or I’d say several modifications to our protocols and programs because of them or suggestions that they’ve made or concerns that they’ve raised,” the future Hall of Famer added.
After Reserve/Covid-19 was implemented in late July, a total of 108 players were added to the list — including big names such as Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, or Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard. All three have been removed from the list again, alongside 100 other players. Just five men are therefore currently on it even though teams are not allowed to disclose any further medical information.
Players are required to immediately be moved from the active roster to the list in case they either test positive or have to be quarantined after having been in close contact with infected persons. They also have to spend up to 10 days on Reserve/Covid-19 depending on whether tests came back positive or symptoms — including among others fever, cough, headache, and shortness of breath — are developed or not.
While New England has not had any issues so far, Belichick pointed out that his team needs to continue staying vigilant.
“I think we’re working together, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he said on Monday. “We’ll see, but it’s constantly evolving, and I’m sure that we’ll have a lot more discussions and situations that we’re going to have to deal with going forward when we get into things like traveling and things like that. So, we’re not there yet. We’ve got a full plate right now, but eventually we’re going to have to deal with other factors, as well.”
The Patriots, like the rest of the league, also continue daily testing for their players and essential personnel. Around 2,000 tests have been administered so far by the team alone.
“We’re getting used to it and it’s not a big deal,” said cornerback Stephon Gilmore about the daily procedures. “It’s one thing that we have to do each and every day to protect ourselves, protect our families. I think all the guys are willing to do whatever we can to do that.”