NFL Allowing for Vaxed Asymptomatic Players to Return Faster

NFL Allowing for Vaxed Asymptomatic Players to Return Faster NFL Allowing for Vaxed Asymptomatic Players to Return Faster (Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Friday, 17 December 2021 10:24 AM

The NFL has decided to allow players who are vaccinated against COVID-19 and test positive with no symptoms to test out of isolation in as little as one day, The Washington Post reported.

That should result in players returning to the field sooner.

New protocols indicate the NFL's attempt to live with an omicron variant that appears to be more transmissible than delta but causes milder illness, the Post said Thursday.

The move, however, reportedly did not sit well with the NFL Players Association, which has pushed for a return to daily testing and advocated for the league to consider postponing games involving teams with large numbers of cases.

The league sent a memo to teams Thursday explaining the protocol changes and adding the modifications take effect "immediately and will remain in effect through the conclusion of Week 15 games, as we continue to discuss modifications with the NFLPA."

The new protocols could enable teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Rams, and Washington Football Team to get some players back for this weekend's games. Approximately 100 players tested positive for the virus leaguewide over a three-day span through Wednesday.

Sports Illustrated reported that NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills on Wednesday detailed the updated COVID-19 situation the league’s 31 owners a one-day meeting of NFL owners in Irving, Texas.

"The modification to the return-to-play protocols marked a notable shift for the NFL as it deals with a sharp increase in coronavirus cases among players this week," said the Post, which added, "the new protocols represent, in effect, the NFL's attempt to live with a variant that the league said it is finding to be more transmissible but causing milder illness."

The league insisted its protocol changes were not irresponsible.

"All of those changes, I would say, are not based on how quickly we can rush someone back," Sills said, the Post reported. "But we’re trying to bring people back when it’s safe — safe for them and safe for their team environment."

Vaccinated players who are asymptomatic after testing positive for the virus now can return to team activities with two negative tests that may be taken concurrently as soon as the next day.

The Post said the complex protocols also include "considerations of cycle threshold values, which are related to the viral load in a person’s test sample."

Vaccinated symptom-free players following a positive test previously needed two negative tests 24 hours apart to be cleared to return. Otherwise the player needed to remain in isolation for 10 days.

The Post said the new protocols also included:

  • A mask-wearing requirement for all players when indoors at team facilities regardless of vaccination status.
  • A prohibition on in-person team meetings held indoors.
  • A limit on the number of players allowed in a team’s weight room simultaneously.
  • Restrictions related to meals, team travel, and gatherings and activities away from team facilities.