The NFL's COVID-19 protocols have long been understood to be flexible, as professional sports continue to maneuver through the pandemic as best they can. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they had shortened the recommended time of isolation for those infected with the coronavirus from 10 days to five days if asymptomatic, followed by five more days of wearing a mask around others. On Tuesday, the NFL followed suit.
A day after ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the NFL and NFLPA had begun discussions to change their COVID-19 protocols to reflect the CDC recommendations, the league has implemented such changes, per CBS Sports senior NFL insider Jonathan Jones. Previously, unvaccinated players who tested positive for COVID were forced to spend 10 days away from team facilities. Now, all players who test positive -- vaccinated or not -- will be permitted to return after a five-day quarantine if asymptomatic.
This could have a direct and immediate impact on several teams ahead of Week 17. For example, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, who is unvaccinated, would've been forced out of Sunday's game against the Raiders without an adjustment to the protocols. Now, if he proves asymptomatic, he could still be available. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, meanwhile, just tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, but the reduced isolation window could improve his chances of returning in time for Tampa Bay's Week 17 matchup with the Jets.
Earlier this month, the NFL made other adjustments to its protocols so that vaccinated players could return as soon as the day after their registered positive test. According to those new protocols, vaccinated players who tested positive could return to the field if they registered two PCR tests that are either negative or have a CT (cycle threshold) of 35 or greater.