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Monday's NFL: Players will be tested daily for COVID-19

Rod Maaddi
Associated Press

NFL players will be tested daily for the coronavirus for at least the first two weeks of training camp per the league’s new testing protocols.

The NFL and the players’ union reached an agreement as rookies for Houston and Kansas City were set to report to camp Monday. Rookies for other teams begin arriving Tuesday.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL chief medical officer, said more than one negative test is required before players initially enter the building to begin physical exams or any form of team activity.

As of now, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will not practice or play home games in front of fans this season.

After two weeks of daily testing, if the positivity rate of those tests falls below 5 percent among players and Tier I and Tier II individuals, as described in previously NFL protocols, testing would go to every other day. If the positivity rate doesn’t fall below that threshold, daily testing would continue until it drops. 

“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,” Sills said. “We very much anticipate that these protocols will change.”

The NFL has sought input from other leagues that have already returned to action, including leagues outside the country. It’s not known how many positive tests would result in shutting down the football season.

“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 league and the NFLPA already finalized protocols regarding team travel, media, and treatment response, and updated the facilities protocol to specifically address training camp based on recommendations from a joint committee of doctors, trainers and strength coaches formed by the league and players’ union. 

On Friday, the league sent players and teams an “Education Protocol” for camp which requires clubs to distribute joint educational materials and to conduct educational sessions for players, staff and family members. 

“Everything that we’re doing is centered around the concept of risk mitigation,” Sills said. “We know that we can’t eliminate risk, but we’re trying to mitigate it as much as possible for everyone. We know that this is going to be a shared responsibility.”

Sills stressed the importance of responsible behavior away from team facilities. Unlike the NBA and NHL, the NFL can’t put its clubs in a bubble environment, so players and team personnel will have outside risk.

“What’s good for players and what makes players and their families safer also makes coaches, staff and teams safer and, quite frankly, it makes our communities safer,” Sills said. 

The NFL’s testing will run through a national laboratory company. The league spoke with the CDC; the White House task force; a number of public health officials; infectious disease experts and national laboratory medicine leaders to make sure its testing protocol would not have a negative impact on the country’s testing supply or the health care system.

“We’ve received unanimous response across the board that it would not have a negative impact,” Sills said. “That’s a very important point to us, we take that responsibility very seriously. We’ve also discussed that at length with our testing vendor to make sure we are not having a negative impact on any of their business.”


No fans for NY games

The Giants and Jets will play their 2020 home games at MetLife Stadium with no fans in attendance “until circumstances change,” the teams jointly announced on Monday. The two NFL franchises are following New Jersey state guidelines attempting to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which is still threatening whether the Giants and Jets will even be able to play those games.

Governor Phil Murphy decided after consulting with both the Giants and Jets that his executive order limiting outdoor public gatherings will apply to events at MetLife Stadium “until further notice.”

“This decision was reached after careful consideration of the current state of the COVID-19 crisis, in discussions with the Giants and Jets, and in consideration of the health and safety of our fans, players and staff, which will continue to be the primary focus for our teams,” the teams said in a statement. “We support Governor Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety and, until circumstances change, both the Giants and Jets will play our games without the benefit of fans in attendance. 

“Although we would prefer to have fans at MetLife Stadium for our games, we will continue to work with Governor Murphy’s office and will provide updates if necessary.”

The Giants and Jets also said that “out of an abundance of caution, each team’s 2020 training camps and practices will not be open to the public.”

“We urge our fans to continue to take the necessary precautions recommended by health officials to stay safe and we look forward to seeing you at MetLife Stadium as soon as possible,” they added.

Murphy added in a statement of his own:

“My Administration has been working in close coordination with professional sports and college teams to determine how to proceed safely with games at their stadiums amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While we look forward to the day we can return to games as normal and cheer from the stands, continued concerns for the health and safety of fans, team members, and staff dictates that our executive order limiting outdoor gatherings does apply to sporting events, including training camp.”


Extra points

Washington’s NFL team brought back its former chief marketing officer, Terry Bateman, in that role Monday to oversee what it called in a news release its “name change and branding process.”

Bateman originally was hired by Washington to oversee marketing in 2006. Brian Lafemina briefly took over business operations in 2018, before leaving later that year.

Bateman has been advising club owner Daniel Snyder lately, but now gets the official title of executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

After years of vowing to never drop his team’s dictionary-defined slur of a name, Snyder recently bowed to financial pressure from sponsors and said the franchise would “retire” its old moniker. 

... Tyler Johnson, a rookie receiver from Minnesota, agreed to a four-year deal with the Bucs.

Johnson, the Bucs’ fifth-round pick (161st overall), is the first known member of the 2020 rookie class to reach an agreement with the team.

Rookies were set to report today, but over the weekend, the Bucs moved the starting date for first-time players to Thursday.

... The Falcons have agreed to terms with each of their six draft picks, including cornerback A.J. Terrell, their first-round selection from Clemson

... The Jets have signed rookie offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, the No. 11 overall pick in the NFL draft, to a four-year, $18.45 million contract.