Training camp schedules across the NFL were at least partially interrupted on Sunday after a New Jersey lab returned a series of false-positive Coronavirus test results. A total of 77 tests were effected by the error, according to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, with 11 teams impacted.
One of those teams, as first reported by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, are the New England Patriots. The Patriots, who had an off-day on Saturday before returning to practice one day later, saw a recent spike in player absences following the false-positive tests.
Five new players — running backs James White and J.J. Taylor, wide receiver Jeff Thomas, tight end Jake Burt, cornerback Michael Jackson — were added to the list of players not present for Sunday’s session after being on the field in full capacity just two days earlier. The test results are believed to be the reason for some, if not all, of those absences. It would therefore not be a surprise to see them return to work on Monday.
The NFL, meanwhile, released the following statement on the false-positive tests:
Saturday’s daily COVID testing returned several positives tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey. We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests. Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.
The Patriots, as noted above, are not the only team impacted by the testing error. The Chicago Bears announced that they received nine false-positives, with New York Jets head coach Adam Gase saying that his team had 10 before canceling a walkthrough on Saturday night. Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that his team received 12 positive test results, including eight from players. The Pittsburgh Steelers had six players impacted.
“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,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said about his team’s handling of Covid-19 last week. “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.”
The Patriots remain one of just five teams in the league to not yet send a player to the newly created Reserve/Covid-19 list — a distinction the club shares with the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Texans.