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COVID-19 protocols: Could player miss Super Bowl due to COVID-19?

NFL players have major questions about how COVID-19 will influence their 2020 campaign. Some have big "what-if" queries in mind.

According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, during Friday's NFLPA conference call, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers raised a poignant question: If a player tests positive for COVID during Super Bowl week but is asymptomatic, would he still be required to sit out?

The answer: Yes. However, according to protocols issued by the NFL to teams on Friday, five days need to pass after an initial test, in addition to two consecutive negative tests separated by 24 hours, for an asymptomatic individual to return to play.

The question itself underscores the uncertainty with which players and clubs are entering the 2020 season. Few answers are cut-and-dry at this stage. The answer highlights the precarious nature of the season. It's possible that a player could get to the biggest game of his career in February and be forced to sit at home and watch under quarantine.

The NFL distributed COVID-19 protocols for the 2020 training camp and preseason to teams on Friday.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport obtained the full document, which includes protocols for education, facility management, team travel, media restrictions and treatment and response; enforcement of protocols; and a COVID-19 screening form.

The procedures reiterated that clubs designate tiers for individual access. All Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel are required to complete COVID-19 education -- including knowledge of symptoms, high-risk individuals, infection prevention, etc. -- before full rosters of NFL players are permitted to return to work.

With personnel slotted into tiers, training camps will begin with a required two-day period to conduct collectively bargained preseason medical examinations and equipment fitting. No fans or visitors will be allowed on-site during camps, social distancing must be adhered to when possible and masks must be worn in facilities. Meetings must be conducted virtually when possible. If in-person meetings are necessary, teams must make efforts to hold in-person meetings outdoors with participants sitting apart from one another and wearing masks. In-person meetings that do not permit physical distancing are prohibited. Meetings with more than 20 individuals must be conducted virtually unless physical distancing practices can be adhered to.

The protocol details at length the cleaning and disinfecting requirements for all common areas, weight rooms, training and treatment rooms and player meeting areas.

All players and staff must wear masks (surgical or cloth) at all times when inside the facility (unless a mask cannot be worn by players due to interference with performance of athletic activities).

Teams cannot require players to stay in a club hotel during training camp. Teams, however, will be required to provide hotel rooms for players who need or elect to stay in a team hotel for training camps. Protocols for hotel cleanliness and air travel are also included.

Perhaps most important, the document details testing and treatment. The guidelines also note contact tracing to determine potential close contact exposures both at the facilities and during games and practices. Any employee, player or contractor who may have had "close contact" with a symptomatic individual will be self-isolated and tested daily for eight days, answer a daily health questionnaire and have increased temperature checks (minimum of three times a day).

Any symptomatic individual may not return to any club facility or interact with a club employee (outside of medical staff) until he/she has two negative PCR virus tests at least 24 hours apart and the team's primary care physician approves the individual is clear to return if said person is a Tier 1 or Tier 2 individual.

Teams are required to report to the club's Infection Control Officer and the NFL any violations of the protocols. Players would notify the NFLPA of any potential violation of the protocols. Players and team employees who "knowingly and materially" fail to follow the protocols could be subject to discipline.

The document distributed to teams also adds a COVID-19 screening form, which all personnel are required to complete. The form asks if the individual has experienced any symptoms in the past 48 hours, had a fever at or above 100.4 degrees or taken any fever-reducing medicine. The form asks if the person believes he/she has been in close contact with someone exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days. It also asks to note any travel outside the United States in the past 30 days.

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