The NFL better be paying close attention to the situation that unfolded over the past week with Matthew Stafford, because it's a situation that could wreak havoc on the league this year as it attempts to play an entire season during the middle of a global pandemic. Stafford has been in the news over the past few days because he became the first starting quarterback in the NFL to be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The problem for the league is that Stafford was only on the list because he recorded a "false positive" after being tested for COVID.
It took less than a week for the NFL to figure out that Stafford didn't have the disease, but in that week, the league created a nightmare for his family and a potential nightmare for itself. From a family standpoint, Stafford's wife, Kelly, revealed on Instagram just how bad things got for her family after her husband originally tested "Positive" on Saturday.
"The past four days have been somewhat of a nightmare," Kelly Stafford wrote. "For 24 hours, we believed my husband was positive for COVID... We were all tested the day after and we were all negative, including Matthew... Then he tested negative, then again, again, and again. After his second negative, we were made aware of the 'false positives' and how this was one of those cases."
The situation was a nightmare for the Staffords because they were soon ostracized by people in their community.
"I have been losing my mind because of how my Family has been treated since my husband was put on COVID-IR," Kelly Stafford wrote. "Even after we knew it was false positive, our school told us they were not allowed back, I was approached in a grocery store and told I was 'endangering others,' my kids were harassed and kicked off a playground, I was told I needed to wait in my car when trying to pick up food, and people closest to us had to get tested just so they could go back to work... and that's just to name a few things."
Kelly Stafford then blamed all of the family's COVID problems on the NFL.
"I don't blame these scenarios on any of the people directly involved... I understand where they are coming from, but I do blame the NFL," Kelly Stafford wrote. "I blame the NFL for not holding themselves accountable. These are people's lives and livelihoods that are in those results in THEIR test sites. Maybe we should be absolutely positive a person has COVID before releasing that info to the world. I'm sharing our experience because I don't want it happening to any other family that plays for this league."
According to Kelly, the league should have been absolutely sure that her husband tested positive before announcing it to the world, and it's an argument that makes sense. Matthew Stafford had tested negative twice last week before testing positive on Friday (The test results were released on Saturday).
Not only did the false positive create a nightmare for the Stafford family, but it could end up causing a nightmare situation at some point for the NFL this season. As things currently stand, a player who tests positive has to sit out for at least five days -- even it's a false positive -- and the only way a player can return in five days is if he's asymptomatic AND he tests negative two times following the positive test.
Basically, the NFL has no protocols in place to get a player back on the field after a false positive and it's pretty easy to see how this could turn into a nightmare situation for the league. If Stafford's positive test had happened on Friday, Sept. 11 instead of a Friday in August, Stafford would have been forced to miss the Lions regular season opener, even though he didn't actually have the disease.
The Stafford situation could happen to literally any player at any time. If Tom Brady, who is possibly the healthiest man alive, tests positive on a Friday, he's going to have to sit out the following game, even if he insists that he sat in his basement all week and didn't come in contact with anyone who has COVID.
If Brady were to miss a game only to later find out that he had a false positive, the NFL will have an ugly situation on its hands, and things would get even uglier if a false positive happened on the Friday before a playoff game or even THE SUPER BOWL (Philip Rivers actually asked the NFL what would happen if a player tested positive a few days before the Super Bowl, and you can check out the answer he got by clicking here).
If Stafford's situation proves anything, it's just how fragile things are going to be this season. Stafford might have been the first false positive, but he certainly won't be the last, and at some point, a player who doesn't have the virus is likely going to miss a game due to a false positive test. It's the harsh reality of the NFL this season, and it's a reality that could have major ramifications on all facets of the NFL, from fantasy to gambling and everything in between.