Report: NFL Will No Longer Test Unvaccinated Players Daily for COVID-19

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 21, 2022

This is the NFL logo on the goalpost pad at Heinz Field before an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The NFL sent a memo to the eight remaining playoff teams regarding changes to the COVID-19 testing process for the remainder of the postseason, and they include scrapping testing unvaccinated players on a daily basis.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network provided the information regarding the NFL and NFLPA's agreement on the changes:

"The NFL just sent a memo to the remaining playoff clubs with a significant update to COVID testing cadence—eliminating the distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated players, who will no longer be subject to daily testing, per sources.
"The change is based on info gathered the past month on the Omicron variant and was approved by the NFLPA. All players and tiered staff will be subject to enhanced symptom screening, symptom-based testing and targeted surveillance testing.
"NFL and NFLPA medical experts are seeing the Omicron wave receding, targeted testing is working and no complications with new five-day return rule. Also, they’re not seeing unvaccinated people shedding virus longer as with previous variants. So all sides comfortable with this shift."

Pelissero also clarified that only a dozen unvaccinated players currently on playoff teams have not had COVID as of yet.

"So this change affects a small number of people," Pelissero said to provide context. "In short: Sick people still get tested. Healthy people don’t."

The NFL and NFLPA previously agreed to changes to the COVID policy on December 28. Of note, the isolation period following a positive test for asymptomatic individuals was cut from 10 to five days, regardless of vaccination statuses.

A protocol change earlier in the month included allowing vaccinated players to "test out" of quarantine if they were asymptomatic for at least 24 hours.

Per an NFL press release, there were 380 new confirmed positive tests among players from Dec. 26, 2021, to Jan. 8.

However, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills told Judy Battista of NFL Network that COVID-19 cases are significantly down around the NFL, citing a number of factors including the league's mitigation factors and a decline in cases related to the omicron variant.

As noted by Sharp Football Analysis, only 43 players found themselves on the COVID-19/reserve list entering the final week of the regular season. As of now, no starting players on any current playoff roster are on the list.

The NFL's Divisional Round will begin Saturday when the Tennessee Titans host the Cincinnati Bengals at 4:30 p.m. ET.