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NFL Outlines Protocol For Positive COVID Cases

A few weeks ago, I explained the soon-to-be elephant in the room. What does the NFL do when players test positive? Health and safety is always first and foremost but positive cases, especially ones that happen late in the week our outbreaks in a position group, have the ability to drastically change a team’s chances. And if numbers continue to rise, football may hardly be recognizable.

The NFL has laid out their plan in handling inevitable positive tests. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweeted out a flow chart of team protocol when a player is confirmed to have the virus.

Credit to the NFL. That’s a pretty clear, simple breakdown that every team should be able to understand and execute.

The first part worth mentioning is the mandatory isolation until test results for players in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Test results have come back much quicker than they were at the start of the pandemic, often within a day, but if one receiver tests positive in the morning, do all other receivers part of the room have to miss that day’s practice while they wait for their test results? It’s the smart thing to do, of course, but circles back to how much different the season is going to look.

If/when players test positive but are asymptomatic, they have to sit out at least ten days before being cleared or five days and two negative tests. So at minimum, they’re still going to miss several days, probably upwards of a week (especially waiting for that second negative test to come back).

For players who test positive with symptoms, they must be isolated from the team for at least ten days and they’ve been symptomatic for at least another three. So it could be longer than ten days if a player, say, has a persistent cough commonly associated with the virus.

Any individual who tests positive must be fully examined and cleared by team doctors, who will communicate with the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer.

Based on that protocol, players who test positive are likely to miss at least one game of action, unless they’re on a bye week or are playing the back end of a Thursday/Sunday contest. That doesn’t even factor in coaches and support staff, all just as prone to the virus – sometimes moreso, considering age and overall health – not to mention the longer-term effects of COVID even of football’s superstars. Von Miller detailed those problems recalling his positive test, hindering his diet/appetite and that he still felt his “lungs trying to get back into shape” 17 days later.

For now though, at least the NFL has offered some clarity in handling their biggest 2020 challenge.

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