NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer released a message to players on Saturday, urging them to not take part in group workouts this offseason prior to the start of training camp. This comes in response to an increase in COVID-19 infections across the league. This week, in particular, there was a noticeable uptick in cases to players, which is what seems to be sparking this response by the NFLPA.
It was revealed earlier in the week that a number of Cowboys and Texans players were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Along with those players, a member of the 49ers, who was working out in Nashville with a group of his teammates, reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. The entire group, which consists of all the 49ers quarterbacks including starter Jimmy Garoppolo, is now getting tested and awaiting the results.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also released a statement on Saturday, confirming that "there have been individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 at the AdventHealth Training Center." Individuals who may have been exposed have already been told by the team to quarantine for 14 days.
Because of the increase in positive tests, the NFLPA sent out this memo to players, urging them to press pause on any group workouts:
To All Players:
Please be advised that it is our consensus medical opinion that in light of the increase in Covid-19 cases in certain states that no players should be engaged in practicing together in private workouts. Our goal is to have all players and your families as healthy as possible in the coming months.
We are working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities for both training camps and the upcoming season, and believe that it is in the best interest of all players that we advice against any voluntary joint practices before training camp commences.
Dr. Thom Mayer
The typical offseason program was thrown out the window due to the pandemic as teams held virtual sessions after being barred from holding traditional OTAs or minicamp. It was only just recently that coaches were even able to re-enter team facilities.
As it relates to this recommendation by the NFLPA, that could further keep the rust on players as they try to prepare for the 2020 regular season. According to Pro Football Talk, Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray arranged a four-day workout session with 20 of his teammates down in Dallas beginning on Sunday. The Raiders have also been getting together for workouts in Vegas, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic. Because of this latest note to the players, it's unclear if these workouts -- or any like it across the league -- will still occur.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Thursday that he is still not 100% sure that football games will be able to play this year without the implementation of a "bubble," which is what the NBA is currently planning to implement at Walt Disney World.
"Dr. Anthony Fauci's words carry important weight as he has served our country with expert guidance and moral clarity through many crises," the NFLPA medical director responded in a statement. "As we have communicated to our players throughout the spring, we know there are significant challenges to the operation of football during a global pandemic. So far, we have been guided and made decisions based on the best available science and current state of infections and hospitalizations. Our joint task force is comprised of experts in multiple areas who are working every day with health and safety in mind.
"In addition to stringent protocols and workplace safety, we continue to reinforce the importance of widely available testing. It is not just a key to restarting football, but also a matter of public health. While the information we currently have indicates it will not be an issue in the near future, we all agree that ethically, we can not as a non-essential business, take resources away from our fellow Americans.
"We will continue to update you as we move forward through the summer."
Prior to these recent player diagnoses, the NFL had already been discussing a shorten preseason to give players more "ramp up" time for the regular season. The league has also been looking into the possibility of expanding practice squads to help give teams more depth in the event of a player being infected. As it relates to the regular season, the NFL appears to be full-steam ahead with trying to start on time, but the league has built in a number of contingency plans in the event that things need to be shortened.