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Kansas City Chiefs Coach Andy Reid was able to watch closely during his 2019 training camp, but so much has changed. The league and the players’ union on Monday agreed on a coronavirus testing plan as rookies begin to report. The Chiefs and Texans are scheduled to open the season on Sept. 10. Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

 

The NFL and its players’ union agreed to a coronavirus testing program for players on Monday, resolving one of the key remaining issues between the two sides as rookies for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans reported to their training camps Monday.

Under the testing agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, players will be tested daily for the first two weeks of training camp. Daily testing will continue as long as the rate of positive tests of players, coaches and other team staffers is above 5%. If the rate falls below 5%, players will be tested every other day. The league expects to receive test results within 24 hours.

“I think that this latest agreement with testing protocols between the league and the Players Association reflects a continuation of the collaborative work that we’ve been doing,” said Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer. “We’ve had other protocols around treatment for new positive cases, around facilities, around travel, around education, around screening. So we’ve continued this work and it’s, again, reflecting a number of months of work that really began back in March.”

Sills also said the league plans to use tracking devices to trace people’s contact as part of its measures to attempt to limit spread of the virus with team facilities.

The arrivals Monday of the rookies for the Super Bowl champion Chiefs and the Texans, the two teams scheduled to meet in the NFL’s season-opening game Sept. 10 in Kansas City, Mo., amounted to a tentative first step by the league toward on-time openings of teams’ training camps. Rookies for other teams are scheduled to report to their camps Tuesday, though some teams were postponing those arrivals, and players remain several days away from even being allowed to enter teams’ training facilities.

The Texans said through a spokesperson that their rookies were undergoing coronavirus testing Monday by the firm BioReference Laboratories at an on-site testing facility outside the team’s stadium in Houston. The rookies had no other team-related activities planned for Monday, according to the spokesperson. A player’s first two days after reporting to training camp are expected to be devoted entirely to undergoing testing and being fitted for equipment.

Many players, including star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, had taken to social media Sunday to question the league’s approach to opening training camps amid the pandemic. Union leaders said Friday that they had been pushing for daily testing of players.

The league and union now have agreed to all the necessary health protocols, but continue to deliberate over other unresolved issues that include the length of the preseason; the structure of teams’ training camps; opt-out rules for players who choose not to play; whether to mandate the use of face shields on players’ helmets designed to limit on-field spread of the virus; and economic issues related to a potential drop in revenue this season and what that would mean to the 2021 salary cap.

Sills confirmed that he’d approved all 32 NFL teams’ Infectious Disease Emergency Response (IDER) plans. The NFLPA’s ratification is pending for many teams’ plans.

“Everything that we’re doing is centered around the concept of risk mitigation,” Sills said in a conference call with reporters. “We know that we can’t eliminate risk. But we’re trying to mitigate it as much as possible for everyone. … I think that these protocols are very much living and breathing documents, which means that they will change.”

The NFL previously sent treatment protocols to teams for dealing with positive coronavirus tests. Sills declined to specify how many positive tests would dictate shutting down a team or the league, saying those issues must be discussed with the union and public health authorities. A player will be required to have “more than one negative test” at the outset of training camp before being allowed into a team’s facility, Sills said.

Owners of the 32 NFL teams spoke by video conference Monday afternoon. That was their second remote meeting since Friday, as the league tries to keep training camps and the season on schedule. For most teams, that means rookies reporting Tuesday, quarterbacks and injured players reporting Thursday and all other players reporting July 28. Individual teams can adjust reporting dates later but not earlier. The July 28 reporting date potentially could be adjusted by the league, pending the status of deliberations with the NFLPA. Team doctors told NFLPA representatives Thursday they believe that camps can be opened safely even in “hot spot” cities.

Los Angeles Rams Coach Sean McVay told the “Helliepod” podcast recently that he suspected that a delay remained possible.

“Usually when you get about a week out – and right now that’s exactly where we’re at – you start to get revved up, get excited … when you’re getting ready to kick off training camp and the preseason,” McVay said. “And there’s something about this time that you know the amount of things that have to take place for that to logistically get off and get going – something about it tells me maybe there’s a chance that things get moved back.”

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