It appears the New Orleans Saints’ innovative plans to keep the team healthy this offseason are thus far paying off. As reported by Nick Underhill, the only two players on the New Orleans roster to test positive are nearly in the clear.
Linebacker Kaden Ellis is officially off the COVID-19 list.
Kaden Elliss is off of the COVID-19 list, per source.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) August 7, 2020
Long snapper Zach Wood tested negative on his first retest; pending the results of his test on August 7, Wood is nearly off the list as well.
Wood took another test today and will get the results tomorrow. If he’s still negative, he’s back. https://t.co/vGG9E8Y1tq— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) August 7, 2020
The NFL has implemented comprehensive COVID-19 protocols to best ensure the viability of the 2020 NFL season. Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 wave makes it abundantly clear the utmost stringent rules need be adhered to in order to keep players healthy. Per the league’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, NFL players will be tested every day for the first two weeks of training camp; consecutive negative tests are required before players can enter team facilities.
If players are placed on the COVID-19 list, they need to test negative on at least two subsequent tests in order to be cleared. It’s important to note that just because a player is placed on the list does not categorically mean that they have the coronavirus; false positives are known to occur. As recently seen with Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Moreover, the NFL is barred from disclosing the reasoning behind player’s placement on the list, though players are free to divulge their situation if so desired. Players can be placed on the list solely for coming in close contact with someone who tested positive—we all know the old adage about assumptions.
Should a player test positive, there are two scenarios that adhere to different procedures— whether a player shows symptoms or is asymptomatic. In the former scenario, players who have COVID-19 symptoms and test positive can return to the team after a 10-day period since they first showed symptoms; this is conditional on the absence of symptoms for at least 72 hours. If a player is asymptomatic, they can either return after that same 10-day waiting period or, upon testing negative on two separate tests at least 24 hours apart, after 5 days.
The NFL disseminated this handy flowchart made by an intern on Microsoft Paint to teams denoting the breakdown of mitigation and treatment protocols for players exposed to COVID-19:
The NFL last night sent to clubs COVID-19 protocols for 2020 training camp and preseason, including this detailed breakdown for handling individuals exposed to someone who tested positive: pic.twitter.com/bX7aQzMZTZ— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 4, 2020
The NFL and NFL Players Association reached an agreement on COVID-19 protocol on July 24 that included details on the COVID-19 players list. As reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, players who test positive will be immediately placed on a temporary injured reserve; their subsequent return is contingent on medical clearance. Teams have the recourse to promote a practice squad player to temporarily fill that roster slot, who can return to the practice squad thereafter without waivers. In addition, in contrast from typical Injured Reserve rules, the 2020 NFL IR list, and number of players who can return, is unlimited.
Typically, teams are permitted to place any number of players on IR at the start of the season. The IR rules previously allotted three NFL players from each team to be eligible to come off the IR list after eight weeks. Clearly, this season requires drastic alterations to the normal NFL operations.
Some teams have seen a wave of players testing positive, while others, such as New Orleans, remain relatively unscathed. Per the NFLPA, 56 players have tested positive since reporting to training camps. Areas with higher coronavirus rates in general have seen a correlation of players testing positive; in particular, several players on the Dolphins, Cowboys and Texans have been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list.
When considering the prevalence of the coronavirus in New Orleans, it’s almost incredulous that the Saints thus far have seen only two positive tests. Head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis truly never sleep, and have continued to implore innovative ways to keep the New Orleans roster in tact.
Payton and Loomis have drawn up plans for the Saints to stay in a hotel for the duration of the season, an initiative players thus far have been receptive to. Payton discussed in his Aug 5 press conference the team’s fervent efforts of “just trying to reduce those numbers, and I think that can just help your team.”
Pending Wood’s second negative test, it appears they’ve done just that.