With 90 players on the training camp roster and 65 on the final active roster and practice squad, that’s 2,880 players through Labor Day and 2,080 thereafter throughout the 32-team league. Inevitably, someone will test positive for the coronavirus — and the NFL knows it.
“We fully expect that we will have positive cases,” NFL executive V.P. of communications, public affairs and policy Jeff Miller said during a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “Our challenge is to identify them as quickly as possible and to prevent spread to any other participants.”
He’s right, and this will require robust and repeated testing, ideally on a daily basis and at a minimum whenever anyone reports to a team facility for meetings, practice, travel to games, etc. To intercept positive cases as quickly as possible and to prevent spread through the close quarters inherent to football, the teams will need to know that someone is positive as quickly as possible. The only way to do that is to test, test, and test some more.
The league quietly (for now) believes that testing protocols will be greatly improved and readily available by the time the season rolls around. It will be critical for teams to know who is positive as soon as they are positive, so that they can be kept away from other players, coaches, etc.
Although Miller didn’t say it (and wasn’t asked to address it), the league also will need a procedure for allowing teams to quickly and easily replace players who test positive, whenever and however that may happen. In this regard, a 12-person practice squad attached to a 53-man roster may not be enough to guard against the kind of localized outbreak that could, in theory, leave a team without enough players for a given game.