The NFL and NFL Players Association reached an agreement Monday over the issue of coronavirus testing, with tests to be administered daily for at least the first two weeks of training camp.
The frequency of tests had been one of the biggest issues between the two sides, with the NFLPA pushing for daily tests as opposed to the league’s position of every other day.
After two weeks of daily testing, the timeliness of the tests will be switched to every other day if the positivity rate falls below five per cent among players and Tier I and Tier II individuals. The daily tests will continue past the two-week mark if the positivity rate does not drop.
“There’s no finish line with health and safety and I think these protocols are very much living and breathing documents, which means they will change as we gain new knowledge about this virus, as we gain new knowledge about transmission, as we gain new knowledge about testing and there are new tests and new techniques that come online,” Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL chief medical officer, said during a conference call. “We very much anticipate that these protocols will change.”
The decision to test every day came as rookies for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans were set to report to camp, and under the league’s protocols, a player must produce one negative test before he is allowed to enter his team’s facility.
“These are complicated issues which involve a lot of factors,” Sills said. “But suffice it to say we very much look at it from a medical and public health standpoint, and we want to make sure that first and foremost we’re creating the safest possible environment for our players, for our coaches and our staff, but that we’re also operating within the safest environment for each one of our clubs’ locations, which means ongoing and regular communication with the public health authorities in those areas.”
The agreement for daily testing also came one day after several NFL players took to social media to voice their concerns over a lack of a player safety plan for scheduled training camps.
Prominent players such as Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry all commented on social media on Sunday under the hashtag WeWantToPlay.
“We know that we can’t eliminate risk, but we’re trying to mitigate it as much as possible for everyone,” Sills said. “We know that this is going to be a shared responsibility.”