2020 Training Camp Questions: How Much Concern Should There Be About Accuracy Of Covid-19 Tests?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.

Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.

Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How much concern should there be about the reliability of testing once the regular season begins?

The NFL was handed a major but fleeting crisis over the weekend when it suddenly was hit with a wave of positive Covid-19 tests. In all, 77 tests from one laboratory in New Jersey triggered false positives across about a dozen different teams around the league. Since then, all 77 of those samples were retested and returned negative results. Those individuals have also been subsequently tested with new samples and yielded negatives.

As a result of these false positives, many teams held players out of practice, or even cancelled or delayed practice, at least until they were able to receive clarification about the inaccuracy of said tests. But that doesn’t mean this will be a one-off event.

No test will be foolproof, and both false positives and false negatives are issues that the NFL will potentially have to deal with over the course of the season. If there is a sudden rash of positive tests the day before the game, how will the league handle it? Will they delay the game?

One thing we can safely say is that false positives are better than true positives, and so far, in the weeks following the opening of training camp, the league has had a clean record with players. Once teams start traveling and intermingling on the field, we can only hope that it stays that way.

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