The NFL has suffered its first major testing issue of 2020 training camp, as the league announced a number of positive tests on Sunday from one of the league’s partner labs in New Jersey, but put out a press release that suggests it does not necessarily believe the results.
“Saturday’s daily COVID testing returned several positives tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey,” the league’s statement read. “We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests. Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA’s health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results.”
The Steelers have not announced any recent positive tests and have not placed any players on the COVID-19 Reserve List since the beginning of training camp, but head coach Mike Tomlin said that some players were held out of practice on Saturday while dealing with testing protocols.
“We had a number of guys that we held out of work or that missed work today because they’re held up in COVID proceedings or procedures,” Tomlin said. “No one to mention at this time in terms of being on the COVID list, but they are in the procedure. We’re going to exercise all precaution like we normally do and we’re going to adhere to the procedure to the fullest.”
The most notable players with otherwise unexcused absences on Saturday were starting running back James Conner and defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Both players were in attendance at Heinz Field, but did not practice. It’s unclear if a testing-related issue is the reason for them not practicing.
Lions quarterback Matt Stafford was placed on the COVID-19 Reserve List with what was later determined to be a false positive earlier this month, but the league has not had a widespread testing issue since returning to live practices on July 28.
UPDATE: Steelers GM Kevin Colbert released a statement later on Sunday saying that the team had held six players out of Saturday’s practice, but they are all expected to return to their field on Monday.