The NFL and NFL Players Association have an agreement in place to conduct daily COVID-19 testing, according to a memo released by the league (first reported by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network). This will stretch over the first two weeks of training camp, and after that, the league will look at positivity rates. If the rate drops below 5% for players along with individuals in Tier 1 and Tier 2, they will move testing to every other day. Players will also need multiple negative tests before they're allowed to be in club facilities for physicals and team activities.
Tier 1 includes players, coaches, trainers, physicians and necessary personnel. Tier 2 includes GMs, team presidents and football operations employees, among others.
The memo highlights that the pre-entry testing period will include two days of virtual meeting in between tests. Players will be tested on Day 1 and Day 4 of training camp with two days of remote education in between. Day 5 of this pre-entry testing period is when players can enter the club facility and is also when the daily testing begins. For veterans who report to camp on July 28, the earliest they can go through a physical is August 1.
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills noted that test results are expected to be turned around within 24 hours. Dr. Sills also relayed that the league has contracted with a national lab to make sure their testing did not take resources away from local markets.
The frequency of testing has been a key topic of concern for players with training camp on the horizon. Over the weekend, a number of marquee players ranging from Drew Brees to Russell Wilson to Richard Sherman all took to social media to publicly voice their concerns about the lack of information and health plan the league had in place at the time as they continue to play amid the pandemic. It appears their voices have been heard as the NFL and NFLPA have crossed a significant hurdle as they approach camp and the regular season.
"Our union has been pushing for the strongest testing, tracing and treatment protocols to keep our players safe," the NFLPA said in a statement regarding the COVID-19 testing procedures. "The testing protocols we agreed to are one critical factor that will help us return to work safely and gives us the best chance to play and finish the season."
As for how the league will handle COVID-19 cases, the NFL previously sent out protocols to teams for individuals who have been exposed. If someone tests positive and is showing no symptoms, they'll need to have 10 days pass since the initial positive result or have five days pass since the positive test and have two consecutive negative PCR tests separated by 24 hours. If they test positive and are symptomatic, they cannot return until 10 days have passed since the first sign of symptoms originated and need at least 72 hours to pass since symptoms have last occurred.
Players will also wear proximity recording devices during team activities to further track and help prevent a potential outbreak.
While this piece seems to be firmly in place in the overall puzzle of how the NFL will conduct the 2020 season, there are still a number of issues to tackle, which includes the potential scrapping of the preseason to have a longer training camp/ramp-up period, player opt-outs, and the overall economic plan to absorb revenue losses.