The NFL and its players’ association agreed Monday on a daily coronavirus testing protocol at the start of training camp, one of the major sticking points for both sides before players report to their team facilities later this week.
NFL players will be tested daily for COVID-19 during the first two weeks of training camp with the potential for testing to be scaled back to every other day. The testing protocol allows teams like the Miami Dolphins to begin reporting to work this week.
Dolphins players and personnel will be tested for COVID-19 in a trailer outside of the team’s Davie practice facility and sent home to await results. A person must test negative twice before being permitted to enter the building.
Dolphins rookies, quarterbacks and injured players will report on Thursday with the earliest day they can enter the practice facility Monday. Other veterans are scheduled to report on July 28 with the earliest they can enter on Aug. 1.
“We just want to play the game that we love,” Dolphins defensive lineman Davon Godchaux said at a charity event shortly before the league’s announcement. “We just need it to get done, come to an agreement, make everybody happy and let’s get it on.”
Some more information on player testing, according to the NFL Network:
-- If a player tests positive, he must wait at least 10 days and have at least two consecutive negative tests before returning to the facility.
-- If the player has close contact with someone who has a positive COVID-19 test, he will be tested twice before being allowed to return.
-- Players who have close contact with someone who has symptoms will be tested, isolated, and subject to increased symptom monitoring and more frequent testing upon their return to the facility.
After two weeks of daily testing, the league will determine whether to scale back testing to every other day if the positive test rate is below 5%. If not, daily testing will continue until it falls below that number. If at any point during training camp the positivity rate reverts to 5% or higher, the team will return to daily testing.
The league has commissioned BioReference Laboratories to handle testing with the hope results are returned within 24 hours.
“This is ongoing work,” Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, said during a conference call. “There’s no finish line with health and safety, and I think these protocols are living, breathing documents, which means they will change as we get new information. They will undoubtedly be changing over time, which is what we usually see in medicine.”
The NFL’s agreement on daily testing came a day after several high-profile players like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and others took to social media to share their collective concerns about the league’s lack of COVID-19 safety regulations before training camps begin.
The effort was reportedly initiated by new Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones, the team’s highest-paid player after signing a five-year, $82.5 million deal earlier this year.
While addressing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Jones wrote on Twitter Sunday: The NFL continues to ignore major health and safety concerns putting the 2020 season in jeopardy. America wants to watch football and we want to play. Make the necessary changes @nflcommish #WeWantToPlay”
“I’m a guy who goes home, I live by myself. But guys like Russell Wilson, and all those guys, they have families and kids inside their household, pregnant wives and stuff like that. When you talk about COVID-19, it’s contagious and you can catch it anywhere,” Godchaux said of the players’ #WeWanttoPlay campaign.
“When you have guys like that in a locker room, we all know locker rooms can be a dirty place sometimes. … Family comes before football, and when you include that, you have to respect those guys.”
The league and its players’ association still have to decide on a number of other concerns like the playing of at least one preseason game, acclimation periods after testing before ramping up practices, and options for players to opt out for the season if they do not wish to play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the daily testing protocol was a step in the right direction for the players.
“I’m just going to follow the rules and when it’s time to report, I’m going to report,” Godchaux said. “I’m ready to get back with my guys and go to work.”
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