Report: NFL Planning 'Significant' Changes to COVID-19 Protocols amid Outbreak

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 16, 2021

NFL logo on the field during an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

The NFL is planning "significant changes" to its COVID-19 protocols amid rising case numbers throughout the league.

Rob Maaddi and Schuyler Dixon of the Associated Press reported the news on Wednesday and stated that the focus will be on testing protocols, booster shot encouragement and easing guidelines so that asymptomatic players testing positive for COVID-19 can return to the field quicker.

The news comes amid word Wednesday that the Washington Football Team's reserve/COVID-19 list has grown to 18 players, per ESPN's John Keim.

The Cleveland Browns added eight players to the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday and five on Wednesday, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, who is said to be asymptomatic per ESPN's Jake Trotter. Head coach Kevin Stefanski has also tested positive for COVID-19.

Overall, seven teams are in enhanced COVID-19 protocols, per Schefter: Washington, Cleveland, the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons, the Detroit Lions, the Los Angeles Rams and the Minnesota Vikings.

Per Judy Battista of NFL.com, around 100 players have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past three days.

"Many of those players are fully vaccinated," Battista wrote.

"According to the league, two-thirds of them are asymptomatic and the rest have very mild symptoms. That has forced a sudden reexamination at the NFL's Winter League Meeting of the protocols that have governed the league, with just four games to go in the regular season before the playoffs begin."

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, also noted that the league can't treat the COVID-19 pandemic the same way now as it did in 2020.

"We're entering a new phase of the pandemic, different than we've seen before," Dr. Sills stated. "We can't apply 2020 solutions to the 2021 problems we're having."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has also said the league does not have plans to postpone any games, including the upcoming matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders and Browns.

American professional sports leagues have not been immune to the COVID-19 numbers in the United States and worldwide. Two Chicago Bulls games have been postponed because of an outbreak within that team.

Calgary Flames games have been postponed through Thursday after six players and a staff member landed in the league's COVID-19 protocol. The Carolina Hurricanes also have six players in the COVID-19 protocol, and that led to a cancellation of a game against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday.

As for the NFL, the league has four regular-season weeks left before the playoffs are scheduled to begin Saturday, Jan. 15.