NFL Chief Medical Officer Says Asymptomatic Cases Aren't Showing COVID-19 Spread

Erin WalshDecember 23, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18: An NFL logo is seen on the side of a football before the NFL football game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts on December 18, 2021, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Sills said Thursday that the league's new COVID-19 protocols are the result of data that shows the virus is not spreading from asymptomatic players and individuals. 

Sills said, per ESPN's Kevin Seifert:

"We've really not seen this phenomenon that people have discussed, which is asymptomatic people in the facility spreading virus to others. As we've gone back and looked throughout the entire season, what we've seen consistently is that when people have symptoms, that's when they seem to be contagious to others. And that's why we're asking people to come forward and acknowledge symptoms because that's the point at which they're vulnerable and the point at which they expose themselves to others.
"Our data has been consistent of that throughout the season, and I think it's particularly true of this new variant, with omicron, of what we're seeing. It's all about symptom recognition and prompt testing."

The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to pause weekly testing for vaccinated players last week. While unvaccinated players are tested daily, vaccinated players are tested when they report symptoms. 

In addition, vaccinated players can now test out of the league's protocols sooner than 10 days if they pass a combination of control threshold readings and negative tests. 

Per Seifert, the new protocols caused concern that infections could spread from vaccinated, asymptomatic individuals. 

Although more than 94 percent of players are vaccinated, more than 300 have tested positive over the last two weeks, per ESPN. Those positive cases have resulted in several games being pushed back, and several more being impacted because of the loss of star players. 

The alteration in games has caused some within NFL circles to speak out, including Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, who criticized the league's decision to push back his team's matchup against the Cleveland Browns to Monday night, calling it a "competitive disadvantage." Las Vegas ended up winning 16-14.

With teams fighting for playoff spots, it'll be interesting to see if the NFL changes its protocols again in the coming weeks.