The NFL Players Association has accepted the NFL's proposal to increase COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated players amid the ongoing Delta variant surge, one of several tweaks the sides made Monday to their joint protocols as the regular season approaches.
Fully vaccinated players will now be tested at least once every seven days, up from once every 14 days. They will be offered the option of testing twice a week, and those with vulnerable cohabitants at home can opt for daily testing, according to the protocols.
The NFLPA has been pushing for daily testing for all players since the start of training camp, but NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said last week that current data doesn't paint a clear picture of whether fully vaccinated players and staffers have been responsible for spreading the virus at club facilities. He added that testing itself did not prevent outbreaks last season and that other mitigation policies -- including masking and avoiding in-person meetings and meals -- proved more valuable.
"People tend to focus on safety, and it's very important that we realize that testing is not prevention," Sills said last week. "Testing is not preventing anyone from transmitting the virus. It is one part of our mitigation strategy but it's not the key part. ... Testing is obviously something that is helpful and it can be beneficial but we try to apply it in a targeted and intelligent manner and we try to test those people that are most at risk, and that's what we'll continue to recommend. But it's not testing that will get us through this surge or the future of our season here."
As of late last week, 93% of players on training camp rosters were at least partially vaccinated. That number could change in the coming days as teams cut their rosters to 53 players apiece. The general philosophy of the NFL/NFLPA training camp protocols -- notably, minimal restrictions for fully vaccinated players and staff members -- will remain intact during the regular season.
Unvaccinated players will continue to face protocols similar to the 2020 season. Other tweaks the sides agreed on this week include:
* Some fully vaccinated employees will be required to wear masks when working inside, including those who work on the medical, strength and conditioning and equipment staffs.
* Players who are not fully vaccinated will not be required to wear masks at outdoor practices but will still need to wear masks indoors.
* Fully vaccinated players can be classified as "high-risk" close contacts, but still won't face the same five-day quarantine that unvaccinated players do in similar situations. Instead, they would be subject to daily testing and mask requirements for five days.