NFL players who are ill but test negative for COVID may still have to sit out
The NFL is trying to be vigilant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which is why players who test positive for COVID-19 are immediately isolated until they can be cleared. However, the protocols the league has in place could eventually result in even players who do not test positive for the coronavirus being ruled out for games.
NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills discussed the NFL’s coronavirus policy on Thursday. With cold and flu season approaching, many are wondering how the NFL will handle players who have symptoms from illnesses other than COVID-19. According to Sills, those players will be sent home and not allowed to return until they produce two negative COVID-19 tests separated by 24 hours.
Here is the treatment rubric for people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Dr. Sills says how this timeline is applied depends on multiple factors, including alternative diagnoses (e.g. strep). "When in doubt, we’re gonna go with the most conservative" approach. pic.twitter.com/TmXyXPHHNv
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 15, 2020
While the NFL is obviously trying to play it safe, the policy has led to some concern among teams. There are plenty of illnesses other than COVID-19, and in the past players have been able to play through those without issue. Now, if a player exhibits symptoms and is sent home on Saturday, he won’t be able to play on Sunday even if he produces one negative COVID-19 test.
Sills says you can expect to start seeing players and coaches miss practices and even games if they show COVID symptoms, even if they don't test positive.
— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) October 15, 2020
This is yet another reminder that clearance isn’t as simple as producing a negative COVID-19 test. There will also always be the possibility of false positives impacting things, as we saw how that can happen before the season.
These issues could draw a lot more attention as the season moves along. If a player like Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson experienced flu-like symptoms the day before a playoff game and couldn’t play, we can only imagine how the NFL community would react.