NFL players will be tested daily for the coronavirus for at least the first two weeks of training camp per the leagueâ€™s new testing protocols.
The NFL and the playersâ€™ 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.
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 doesnâ€™t fall below that threshold, daily testing would continue until it drops.
â€œThereâ€™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,â€ Sills said. â€œWe very much anticipate that these protocols will change.â€
The NFL has sought input from other leagues that have already returned to action, including leagues outside the country. Itâ€™s not known how many positive tests would result in shutting down the football season.
â€œThese are complicated issues which involve a lot of factors,â€ Sills said. â€œBut 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 weâ€™re creating the safest possible environment for our players, for our coaches and our staff, but that weâ€™re also operating within the safest environment for each one of our clubsâ€™ locations, which means ongoing and regular communication with the public health authorities in those areas.â€
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 playersâ€™ union.
On Friday, the league sent players and teams an â€œEducation Protocolâ€ for camp which requires clubs to distribute joint educational materials and to conduct educational sessions for players, staff and family members.
â€œEverything that weâ€™re doing is centered around the concept of risk mitigation,â€ Sills said. â€œWe know that we canâ€™t eliminate risk, but weâ€™re trying to mitigate it as much as possible for everyone. We know that this is going to be a shared responsibility.â€
Sills stressed the importance of responsible behavior away from team facilities. Unlike the NBA and NHL, the NFL canâ€™t put its clubs in a bubble environment, so players and team personnel will have outside risk.
â€œWhatâ€™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,â€ Sills said.
The NFLâ€™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 countryâ€™s testing supply or the health care system.
â€œWeâ€™ve received unanimous response across the board that it would not have a negative impact,â€ Sills said. â€œThatâ€™s a very important point to us, we take that responsibility very seriously. Weâ€™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.â€
AP Pro Football Writers Simmi Buttar and Barry Wilner contributed to this report.
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