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NFL remains confident in current COVID testing protocols

Bill Belichick addresses his recent comments about vaccinations for teams, and Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss that it's now a matter of player availability for teams.

The NFL Players Association wants the league to test all players daily, vaccinated or not. The NFL has not yet pivoted to the same testing frequency as the league utilized in 2020.

Via the Washington Post, the league has confidence in its current procedures, which entail daily testing for unvaccinated players and weekly testing for the vaccinated.

“I’m very optimistic about the season ahead because of the fact that we are such a very heavily vaccinated group of players and staff,” chief medical officer Allen Sills told the Post. “I think that’s going to position us to withstand the challenges of the pandemic.”

Sills insisted that vaccination reduces the risk of infection. “It certainly reduces the risk of severe infection or outcomes and also appears to have positive benefit on the transmission,” Sills said.

Still, with the technology currently permitting quick and reliable testing before entering the facility, why not require everyone to generate a negative result before walking through the doors? Although the risk of infection for vaccinated players may be smaller, the risk of an infected vaccinated player getting inside the building and shedding virus goes to zero, if they must be tested every day.

The reluctance could come from the basic fact that the league’s primary incentive is getting all games played. The league seems to be very confident that all games will be played, even if vaccinated players are tested weekly. If certain teams are missing certain key players because a vaccinated player entered the building while positive for the virus in the period between testing, that doesn’t impact the league.

Ultimately, 272 games will be played, followed by 13 postseason games. The revenue from those games will pour into the coffers. Does the league care whether a given team loses a given game due to a key player being absent and misses the playoffs because of it? Although it should care, the bigger priority is playing all the games. The league would say that it’s for the teams to ensure that their players can play.

That goes back to a sense some teams have gotten from the league since the pandemic began. The attitude as perceived by some teams is that things that go well can be attributed to the league’s protocols, and that things that go poorly can be blamed on the teams.

The message to the teams is simple. If you want to win as many games as possible (and most of them presumably do), button up your procedures and protocols. The league’s procedures will allow you to have enough players to play. The league’s procedures may not allow you to have the best players for all games.