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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

Former Steelers WR Martavis Bryant Signs with CFL’s Toronto Argonauts

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is heading north for his next opportunity and signing with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, the team announced Monday.

While Bryant is currently suspended indefinitely from the NFL, he has nothing preventing him from continuing his career in Canada. He has not played since 2018 following multiple violations of the league’s drug policy.

Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Bryant spent the first three seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, catching 126 passes for 1,917 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Steelers traded Bryant to the Oakland Raiders prior to the 2018 season, but played in just eight games before the suspension.

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Steelers Connections Abound in Chiefs-Buccaneers Super Bowl

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While the Pittsburgh Steelers saw their Super Bowl LV hopes dashed two weeks ago, fans will recognize plenty of familiar faces when the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet on Feb. 7.

Six players with Steelers ties are expected to take the field in either red or pewter on Super Bowl Sunday, with the two most notable examples being Tampa Bay wide receiver Antonio Brown and Kansas City running back Le’Veon Bell.

Both missed their respective championship games due to injury, but could return to health in time for the Super Bowl with two weeks to recover.

In addition, the Chiefs also boast guard Stefen Wisniewski and punter Dustin Colquitt, who both spent time in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

Wisniewski is in line to make his second-straight Super Bowl start in response to injuries along the Chiefs’ offensive line suffered Sunday, while Colquitt is on Kansas City’s practice squad.

Former Steelers defensive back Ross Cockrell and nose tackle Steve McLendon will take the field for the Buccaneers defensively.

But Tampa Bay’s Pittsburgh connections do not stop on the field, as the Buccaneers will also have six coaches with Steeler ties on the sideline for the big game, including head coach Bruce Arians.

Arians, who is in his second season in Tampa, spent eight years in Pittsburgh, serving as wide receivers coach (2004-06) before being elevated to offensive coordinator (2007-11).

Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich played under Arians in Pittsburgh, and had three separate stints with the Steelers as a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger.

Tampa Bay also boasts assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin, outside linebackers coach Larry Foote, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El and assistant coach Tom Moore.

Even with the Steelers at home watching along with the rest of the country, Pittsburgh should have no shortage of rooting interests when the Chiefs meet the Buccaneers in Tampa in two weeks time.

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Around the NFL: Championship Game Sunday Features four Star QBs

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers, 3:05 p.m., WPGH-TV

It will be a Battle of the Bays in the early slot Sunday, as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers visit Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Tampa and their athletic defense got the better of Green Bay back in Week 6, winning handedly 38-10 and holding Rodgers to his worst performance of the season.

The Bucs’ relentless pass rush had Rodgers under constant duress, sacking to probable MVP four times and picking him off twice. Rodgers was also held without a touchdown pass for the only time in 2020.

As for Brady and the Bucs, he tossed for 166 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Tampa Bay running back Ronald Jones II had 113 yards and two scores on the ground.

Playing the best football of his career since that loss to Tampa Bay, Rodgers will assuredly be looking to avenge his poor performance back in October to reach his second Super Bowl. He carved up a stout Los Angeles Rams defense for 296 yards and three total touchdowns a week ago, and has tossed one interception over his last 210 pass attempts.

He will try to keep that unblemished streak alive against a Buccaneers defense that picked off New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times a week ago.

Tampa’s Tom Brady can reach his tenth Super Bowl with a win over the Packers. No stranger to performing in the elements, Brady will look to carve up the improving Green Bay defense with his patented surgical precision.

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs, 6:40 p.m., KDKA-TV

While two legends are squaring off in the NFC, a pair of rising stars will go toe-to-toe in the AFC Championship game, as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs welcome Josh Allen and the Bills.

Cleared from concussion protocol after leaving last week’s win over the Cleveland Browns, Mahomes is still battling a toe injury that could hamper his signature mobility. Luckily for Kansas City, Buffalo is 22nd in the league in pressure rate.

Even without his scrambling, Mahomes is still a threat from the pocket, coming off a season where he threw 38 touchdowns and just six interceptions.

The Chiefs offense will get a boost to take the heat off Mahomes on Sunday night as well, with rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire set to make his return from injury.

Turning to the Bills, they are here behind an MVP-caliber season from Allen, who has made tremendous strides in his third season. His 45 total touchdowns this year are the most ever by a Buffalo quarterback, while he improved his completion percentage by 10.4 percentage points, now at 69.2%.

Allen has protected the football well this season with just ten interceptions, but he will have to be extra cautious opposing the safety Tyrann Mathieu and the Chiefs defense. The “Honey Badger” has five interceptions in his last six games.

Kansas City is looking reach their second-straight Super Bowl, while Buffalo is pursuing their first appearance since 1993.

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