NFL players have reported to training camp and completed their COVID-19 intake testing, and the results of that first round of testing are encouraging.
The NFLPA released those results on Thursday morning, and approximately 2 percent of players tested positive for COVID-19.
The NFLPA says 56 players have tested positive for COVID-19 since players began reporting to training camp. That's about 2% of the ~2,600 players on active rosters, and well under a 1% positivity rate in terms of total tests administered. Still very early, but good signs.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 6, 2020
That’s 56 positive tests out of 2,600 players. With the COVID-19 opt-out date arriving Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, that figure could put the minds of many players at ease. Most players did not have COVID-19 when they came to camp, and it appears that there has been minimal spread since. If everyone remains careful, the NFL might avoid disaster and execute a safe season.
That’s a big, big “if.”.
Real test for NFL will come in September
The small number of positive tests since players began reporting is encouraging, but it doesn’t tell us all that much about the NFL’s safety protocols. Remember, MLB’s initial positive rate after intake testing was also below 2 percent. We’ve seen how that turned out: outbreaks on two teams before the season was two weeks old.
The NFL will get the first real look at how its protocols are working after Aug. 17, when full contact practices begin. Sweaty players will be getting close to each other, up in each other’s faces in ways they haven’t yet. Each team will be as safe as only their least safe member.
Full contact practices are small potatoes compared to what comes next: the start of the regular season in September. That’s when the real test will begin. That’s where MLB stumbled, and the NFL is obviously hoping to avoid the same outcome — even though their safety protocols, like MLB’s, rely on the personal responsibility of each player to stay safe. Teams will be traveling to different cities and getting close to players they haven’t interacted with yet. The safety of two entire teams will be on each player’s shoulders.
If someone on the offensive line of a visiting team decides to go out to a bar while he’s playing in New Orleans, that puts two entire teams at risk. It doesn’t have to be New Orleans, or even a bar. It could be a convenience store in Cincinnati, or a trusted friend’s house in Dallas. According to Miami Marlins owner Derek Jeter, their team outbreak could have started from those innocent outings.
There’s no reason to look at the low positivity rate as anything but good news. Early on, things are working and players are staying safe. But things have barely begun. There are major trials in the NFL’s future. Let’s hope the NFL, and every single one of its players, is up to the task.
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