NFL and NFLPA Agree on COVID-19 Testing Protocol, Cancel Preseason Games

The NFL and NFLPA reached an agreement Monday afternoon on the testing aspect of the COVID-19 protocol to ensure players and staff are safe as training camps begin within the next couple of weeks.

According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, both parties will require daily COVID-19 testing for the first two weeks of training camp, followed by testing every other day if the positive test rate is below five percent. However, if the positive test rate is above five percent at any point, the league will proceed with daily testing until it falls below that number.

When arriving to team facilities for the first time, players and employees will be required to test negative twice before they’re allowed in. They must wait 72 hours prior to taking a second test. If they are both negative, they can go in the buildings to work on Day 5.

The memo obtained by ESPN states that the five percent threshold and testing rules will apply to Tier 1 and 2 employees for all 32 teams. The NFL defined Tier 1 employees as “all players and necessary personnel who must have direct access to players” (such as trainers, scouts, coaches) and Tier 2 as “other essential personnel who may need to be in close proximity to players and other Tier 1 individuals and who may need to access restricted areas.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills expects that test results will return within 24 hours. The league has contracted with BioReference Laboratories to handle tests.

The NFL and NFLPA also agreed to cancel all preseason games.

The league’s full proposal to the NFLPA includes an offer for a longer training camp acclimation period, which is closer to what they initially proposed. As of now, the union has not accepted the offer. The players proposed the acclimation period that limits the first 21 days to strength and conditioning work, non-padded practices the following 10 days, and full contact for the final 14 days.

An earlier agreement reflects a compromise between the players, who pushed for daily testing as a condition to returning to football, and the owners, who proposed testing every other day instead.

Despite the negotiations, a big red flag remains to be addressed: the NFLPA not reviewing all 32 individual teams’ IDER (Infectious Disease Emergency Response) plans, which cover issues such as handling positive tests and isolating individuals exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

According to Sills, the NFL’s infectious disease experts reviewed all 32 IDER plans.

While there are some extensive details regarding COVID-19 testing, the NFLPA has not accepted the protocol’s entirety as of today.

Both sides did reach a prior agreement for initial reporting dates as rookies for the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs are set to report to camp on Monday, July 26, while other teams’ rookies will begin to arrive on Tuesday, July 27. The full-squad date for most teams remains July 28.

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