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NFL, NFLPA Agree to Testing Protocols for Training Camp

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The NFL and NFLPA have agree to COVID-19 testing protocols ahead of the start of training camps over the upcoming weeks.

The agreement involves daily testing for the first two weeks of training camps. Following the initial two weeks of testing, the league will scale back testing frequency to every other day if the initial batch of results shows a positive test rate below 5%. If the positive test rate is above 5%, daily testing will continue until the percentage falls to the appropriate level.

Players, coaches and other team personal will have to undergo a five day pre-entry testing program prior to the actual start of camps, according to a memo from the league office. All individuals will take an initial test, then wait 72 hours before receiving a second one. There will be no COVID-19 testing between the two screenings, and individuals will not be permitted in club facilities during that time. The daily testing and return of players to facilities will begin on the fifth day.

Players will require multiple negative test results before they can return to facilities and participate in team activities.

“This is ongoing work,” Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer said. “There’s no finish line with health and safety, and I think these protocol are living, breathing documents, which means they will change as we get new information. They will undoubtedly be changing over time, which is what we usually see in medicine.”

The league has contracted BioReference Laboratories to handle all testing. Not only does this ensure that results get back within 24 hours, but it also prevents the league from using up tests in their various markets that could be used for the public.

“Any decision that we make, whether it’s around testing or screening or treatment or games, we want to make sure that we are in no way having a negative impact on the public health situation,” Sills said. “That is acutely true when you speak about testing. We have had ongoing and extensive discussions with multiple parties around that issue. And we have discussed at length with our testing vendor to make sure we’re not having a negative impact on their business.”

The NFL had received criticism over the past few weeks for not already having these protocols in place, considering they had more time than any other American professional sports league to do so.

Players also expressed their disagreements with the league, with many taking to Twitter to publicly express their desire to play, while simultaneously keeping themselves and their families safe.

Ultimately the sides were able to hash out their differences before any significant labor disputes arose, potentially putting the start of the season in jeopardy.

The NFLPA released a statement in support of the new protocols Monday.

NFL

Mic Drop: Antonio Brown Suspended, Steelers Coverage, Keys to Season

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Mike Asti discussed a gauntlet of topics, including the announcement of Antonio Brown’s suspension, the keys to the upcoming season and who’s facing the most pressure. Asti also pulled back the curtain and explained the perimeters to covering the Steelers in the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19.

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Giants LT Nate Solder Opts Out of 2020 Season

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New York Giants left tackle Nate Solder has opted out of the 2020 season, he announced Wednesday on Twitter.

Solder cited the health of his family as his main reasoning to sit out this year. His son Hudson has been battling cancer for the last four years, and he is a cancer survivor himself. He and his wife Lexi also have a newborn, their son Emerson who was born this spring.

“With fear and trembling, we struggle to keep our priorities in order and, for us, our children’s health and the health of our neighbors comes before football,” Solder said in a statement.

Solder is one of the highest-profile players yet to opt out this season. Other notables include New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Both players also have newborns at home and referenced preexisting conditions in their families.

While Solder’s absence will be a loss for the Giants, it will be the Steelers’ gain. Pittsburgh opens up the 2020 season on the road against the Giants at MetLife Stadium.

Without Solder, the Giants may be starting two rookies at tackle when the teams meet on Sept. 14 in first-rounder Andrew Thomas and third-rounder Matt Peart. That is far from an ideal scenario when T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree are coming off the edge, a duo that combined for 26 sacks a year ago.

Solder is the fourth-highest paid left tackle in the league, according to Spotrac. He was set to make $9.9 million in base salary this year, and count $19.5 million against the Giants’ salary cap.

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Former Steeler Dr. Myron Rolle Says it is Unsafe for NFL Season to Start

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety and current neurosurgeon Dr. Myron Rolle says it is unsafe for the NFL season start, and that more time is needed before professional football can return in full.

Joining CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night, Rolle expressed his concerns as players around the league arrive at team facilities for training camps amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He thinks the best option is to postpone, or even cancel the season all together.

“I do not think it’s safe to return right now,” Rolle told CNN. “I think the NFL should delay the sport or cancel it this year to allow the wonderful women and men on the front lines to really get ahead of this pandemic and make it safe for everyone to come back to the sport.”

Rolle says the safest path for football to return requires a significant reduction in the numbers of cases across the country. While some states have found a way to slow the virus, that is not the case elsewhere, with hotspots in Arizona, Florida and Texas still raging. Rolle added that football is not a sport that necessarily lends itself to social distancing.

“When you have states that are hot beds and players coming from these places, I think it’s very difficult to sort of say, ‘I want to social distance,’ in a sport that’s inherently close,” Rolle explained, citing the “need to be cohesive in the locker room and in the huddle and walk-throughs close together.”

“It’s actually encouraged to be physical. It’s encouraged to have hand fighting at the line of scrimmage to tackle a player,” Rolle continued. “And as a football player, if you’re thinking about trying to keep yourself safe in the midst of a game that inches matter, one step too slow, one step too late, that’s the touchdown. That’s a win versus a loss.”

Rolle also called out the NFL directly, saying that if they really are the American institution and community leader they claim to be, they should be setting an example instead of trying to be the exception. He wants the league to “be a leader at the forefront and put the players’ safety and their families’ safety as a premium.”

“If the NFL wants to be part of the community, I think it needs to be responsible and think about what is actually happening in the community right now,” Rolle said. “A pandemic happening and infection rates going up and hospitalizations occurring, PPE at high demand.”

Drafted in the sixth round out of Florida State back in 2010, Rolle spent time with the Tennessee Titans and Steelers before leaving the NFL to attend medical school in 2013. He is currently a third-year neurosurgeon resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.

While the coronavirus situation across the U.S. does not seem to be showing much improvement, the NFL is moving forward as planned. Players arrived at training camp this week, and the league still intends to kick off the 2020 season on Sept. 10 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.

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