Cleveland Coach Kevin Stefanski was among the 77 false positive tests. “I can laugh about it now, but truly it wasn’t fun to have that phone call very early in the morning and not get news that it was potentially an error until later.” Phil Long/Associated Press

The lab used by the NFL for COVID-19 tests said Monday that an isolated contamination caused 77 “most likely false positive results.”

In a statement, BioReference Laboratories said the test results on Saturday were contaminated during preparation at its lab in New Jersey. Eleven clubs were affected, and the tests were reexamined and found to be false positives.

“The NFL immediately took necessary actions to ensure the safety of the players and personnel,” said Dr. Jon R. Cohen, executive chairman of BioReference, which does all COVID-19 testing for the 32 NFL teams in five labs across the country. “Re-agents, analyzers and staff were all ruled out as possible causes and subsequent testing has indicated that the issue has been resolved. All individuals impacted have been confirmed negative and informed.”

Among teams reporting false positives, the Minnesota Vikings said they had 12, the New York Jets 10 and the Chicago Bears nine. The entire episode puts the NFL and its testing procedures through BioReference in a precarious position with the opening game kicking off on Sept. 10.

There are five labs nationwide that service the 32 teams, with only the New Jersey facility having the false positives this weekend. Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 – even a false positive upon a retest – is required to have two more negative tests before being cleared to return.

The New York Giants said Monday that two staff members whose test results initially came back as false positives were back at work. Both were given a point of care test Sunday morning, the results of which were known within the hour, and were administered the standard test they undergo on a daily basis, the results of which were known Sunday night. Both results were negative.

Two other Giants staffers were deemed through contact tracing to have been in close contact for more than 15 minutes with their peers who had the false positives. They also returned to work Monday.

Cleveland Coach Kevin Stefanski was one of the false positive tests. Stefanski was at home with his wife and three children when he got word that he may have the virus.

“It wasn’t fun,” Stefanski said on a Zoom call. “I can laugh about it now, but truly it wasn’t fun to have that phone call very early in the morning and not get news that it was potentially an error until later.”

Stefanski said he immediately left his house as not to put his family in any more danger. He went to a condominium near the team’s facility where he stayed before moving his family to Ohio from Minnesota in the offseason. He spent the previous 13 seasons on the Vikings’ staff.

It took four hours before Stefanski learned he was negative. He was not able to coach on Sunday, when the Browns initially called off their workout before holding it when they learned of the flawed lab results. Stefanski did not disclose how many false positives affected the Browns. He said 12 more players need to be cleared before they can practice Monday.

The 38-year-old coach praised the Browns for the way they handled “a fire drill” with their virus protocols.

BROWNS: Rookie safety Grant Delpit was carted off the practice field Monday with a right Achilles injury, the latest Cleveland player to go down in what has been a tough training camp so far for the team and first-year coach Kevin Stefanski.

A second-round pick from national champion LSU, Delpit was expected to start this season. The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder got hurt during individual drills. He pounded his hand on the ground in frustration before being helped onto the cart and taken inside the team’s facility.

The team only confirmed Delpit’s injury and said he will undergo further testing. Delpit was penciled in to start alongside Karl Joseph, who was signed as a free agent during the offseason but is nursing a foot injury. The Browns also signed veteran safety Andrew Sendejo.

But Delpit was seen as a long-term upgrade at a position that was a problem for the Browns last season.

Not long after Delpit got hurt, starting cornerback Greedy Williams – another former LSU player – left the field accompanied by athletic trainers with a reported shoulder injury. Williams and Delpit were college teammates.

Williams, who missed Cleveland’s first four games last season with a badly pulled hamstring, did not return to the field. His injury was compounded by cornerback Terrance Mitchell sitting out with a knee injury and backup nickel back M.J. Stewart pulling up in practice with a hamstring injury.

The Browns are already missing two potential starters on defense as Mack Wilson sustained a serious knee injury last week and projected nickel back Kevin Johnson sustained a lacerated liver on a routine play in practice.

Wilson hyperextended his left knee and the Browns are still waiting to find out if he needs season-ending surgery.

Johnson’s return is also in question after he was fallen on by rookie tight end Harrison Bryant while trying to break up a pass during a 7-on-7 drill. Johnson spent two days at University Hospital before being released on Saturday.

If that wasn’t enough, Browns Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb just returned from a concussion he got last week when thrown to the ground by Wilson on the team’s first full day in pads. The Browns are also without starting center JC Tretter. He underwent knee surgery on the eve of camp opening and it’s not known how long he’ll be out.

DOLPHINS: The Miami Dolphins will allow up to 13,000 socially distancing fans to attend their home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 20, a decision that divided political leaders and upset the visiting coach.

The same plan will be followed for the University of Miami’s home opener against UAB at the Dolphins’ stadium on Sept. 10.

Crowd size will be about 20% of the stadium’s 65,326-seat capacity, with the limitation imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Groups of spectators will be spaced 6 feet apart.

Fifteen of the NFL’s 32 teams have ruled out spectators to start the season. The Dolphins are one of at least eight teams hoping to have a limited number of spectators, and many teams haven’t announced plans.

At a news conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez applauded the Dolphins’ plan and safety upgrades.

“They’re not going to make a lot of money this season,” DeSantis said. “Putting all the money they did into this to give fans the ability to watch some football in person, I think, means a lot.”

DeSantis said the state’s virus numbers are trending in an encouraging direction. But South Florida remains a hot spot, and not all reaction to the Dolphins’ plan was favorable.

U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, who served as the secretary of health and human services during the Clinton administration, expressed concern about the safety of those attending games.

“It is very difficult to open anything when you have community spread,” said Shalala, former president at the University of Miami. “We still have community spread in South Florida. So the kinds of precautions that need to be taken are extraordinary, and I think it’s going to be very difficult to do. … There is no question that it’s risky.”

Bills Coach Sean McDermott wasn’t happy that some NFL teams will have fans and others won’t. As of now, the Bills don’t plan to allow spectators at their home games.

“I think it’s honestly ridiculous that there will be on the surface what appears to be a playing field that’s like that, inconsistently across the league with the different away stadiums,” McDermott said.

The NFL competition committee decided earlier to allow fans where permitted by state and local governments. Denver Broncos Coach Vic Fangio dismissed the need for a blanket policy regarding spectators.

“I really don’t give a damn about that,” Fangio said. “If we can play in a stadium that’s full, half-full, third-full, home or away, we’re happy. That shows progress with the COVID.”

FALCONS: The Atlanta Falcons released guard Jamon Brown, who started nine games in 2019.
Brown was facing an uphill fight for a starting job in training camp.

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