NFL working to refine COVID-19 protocols, testing guidelines

As the COVID-19 pandemic affects everyday life in America, the NFL continues to adapt its standards accordingly.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills made as much clear during a conference call Wednesday, saying he has told teams with complaints about protocols "it won't feel normal because it won't be normal," per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. Last week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh publicly complained about the requirements set forth by the league in a memo to all 32 teams, calling them "humanly impossible" to meet.

Those guidelines weren't ironclad, though, and Sills said protocols are still being developed, with a very likely chance the testing strategy will look different from start to end of season as science evolves, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. The plan as of now is to also test everyone who will be exposed to players and coaches -- officials, for example -- just prior to gameday.

The overarching theme of the process is essentially everything remains fluid. The NFLPA and NFL "are working to figure out how to apply the principals of the recommendations (from a special task force) as it relates to the calendar and schedule," Sills said, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

As for training camp, this will also be a unique experience. Most everyone will need additional time to get properly prepared for the daily medical processes that will be required during this year's camps, as well as the players themselves needing time to get their body prepared for the rigors of preseason preparation.

"Everyone is very aware there will need to be an additional ramp-up for a period of time -- both at the outset for medical exams and education, then clearly as you get into physical activity, you'd have to do it step-wise," Sills said, per Rapoport.

As for any chance of isolation of entire teams in a style similar to what the NBA will be employing in Orlando next month, Sills said "we do not feel it's practical or appropriate to construct a bubble."

"Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return," Sills added, per Pelissero.

Finally, when it comes to attempting to prevent the spread of the coronavirus on the field, Sills said work continues to be done in the areas of modified facemasks for players, per Garafolo. NFLPA officials mentioned such work in their conference call with agents earlier this week, Garafolo added.

Plenty of work remains to be done to prepare properly for training camps to open. With a little over a month to go, these efforts can be expected to continue in an ever-changing world.

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