After NFL teams finalized their 53-man rosters for the 2021 season, coaches sent their players off for one final weekend before the grind of a 17-game schedule begins. Even at a time of high vaccination rates, there are concerns around the league.
Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin became the first player to test positive for COVID-19 during the season and will miss Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The league strongly encouraged all of its personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine, reducing the risk of contracting the coronavirus, but recent events have left many fearing what the next test results will reveal.
According to Chris Mortensen, multiple coaches and executives are nervous about Monday’s round of COVID-19 testing. Many players are returning from visits to their colleges for the start of the college football season and there is concern those social gatherings led to the spread of the coronavirus.
With COVID-19 cases spiking across the country and the Delta variant hitting both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, the NFLPA pushed for more testing during the season. This past week, the league agreed to weekly COVID testing for vaccinated players and staff. Meanwhile, all unvaccinated personnel are tested daily.
If an unvaccinated player tests positive for the coronavirus, they are automatically sidelined and put into a 10-day quarantine. So, if a team receives a positive test result from an unvaccinated starter on Monday, they are immediately ruled out for Week 1.
The rules are less restrictive for those fully vaccinated, with two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart allowing for anyone who received the vaccine to return as long as they aren’t displaying symptoms.
While the NFL will have fans back in the stands this week, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over and it will have a major influence on the upcoming season. With so many players coming off a short break, it wouldn’t be a surprise if several teams are playing without starters due to positive test results.