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NFL Proposes Plan to NFLPA for COVID-19 Tests Once Every Week

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 8/26/2021 Wilton Jackson
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The rise in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant is causing the NFL to revisit its protocols with the NFLPA.

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The National Football League recommended to the National Football Players Association on Thursday that vaccinated players receive a COVID-19 test once every seven days in comparison to one every 14 days due to rise in cases from the delta variant, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

The league says it proposed mandatory vaccinations to NFLPA in July and would like to impose a mandate on Friday if there is an agreement. However, the players' union is not backing that proposal as of now, per Mortensen

Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, told reporters that 93% of players and 99% of team staff are vaccinated, per Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer. Between Aug. 1 and Aug. 22, the league recorded 68 positive COVID-19 cases (0.95% incidence rate) among a league-wide 7,190 people who were tested. 

At the end of July, nearly half of the league's teams had reached a 90% vaccination rate and 85% of the players across the league had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Let me be clear, I think the vaccines are working," Sills told reporters on a call. "Our NFL facilities are the safest places in our communities."

According to medical data, 95% of serious hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated people. 

Protocols remain the most restrictive for unvaccinated players. They are required to wear masks at all times, including while lifting in the weight room and at practices except when doing so would interfere with their ability to engage in athletic activity.

Vrentas: The NFL Has Gone As Far As It Can on Vaccinations

The Titans placed quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is vaccinated, on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday. Tannehill must record two consecutive negative PCR tests over a 24-hour period to rejoin Tennessee, per league protocols.

Tannehill said in July he was "in the process" of getting vaccinated at the start of Tennessee's training camp. He noted he originally did not intend to receive the COVID-19 vaccine but said the NFL is "trying to force our hands."

The Colts also placed offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Eric Fisher on the reserve-COVID list on Thursday.

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie tweeted a picture of his letter from the league informing him of a $14,650 fine for violating the COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated players by not wearing a mask inside the Bills' facility. The league stated that McKenzie failed to wear a mask twice on Wednesday, once while entering the team's fieldhouse to the training room and secondly while in a meeting area of the weight room near other players. 

McKenzie's violation comes two days after Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley was removed from the team's practice facility for at least five days after his close contact with a member of the Buffalo training staff who tested positive for COVID-19. 

More: Cole Beasley Says Players Need 'Proper Information' on Vaccines

In addition to Beasley, Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis and defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler were also placed in the league's five-day reentry phase after testing negative. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the trainer—who is vaccinated—is experiencing mild symptoms.

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