NFL will hold players out of practices, games with flu-like symptoms

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Odell Beckham did not practice Thursday with an illness. While the star receiver has not tested positive for COVID-19, Beckham’s symptoms prompted the Browns to send him home out of an “abundance of caution,” coach Kevin Stefanski said.

Lions running back Adrian Peterson also missed practice with a non-COVID-19 illness.

It is a sign of the times . . . with more to come.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said Thursday that, because many cold and flu symptoms are the same as those for COVID-19, the number of players, coaches and personnel sent home with an “illness” likely will rise. The NFL will rule out COVID-19 first before allowing anyone with flu-like symptoms back in the building.

“I think something you will certainly start to see more of is you will see players, coaches and staff who are missing days of practice or possibly even games simply because of symptom reports, not necessarily because of a positive test,” Sills said on a conference call. “We all know we’re going into cold and flu season. There are going to be a lot more sore throats, stuffy noses, coughs that develop. In today’s times, with the situation we’re in, we always have to rule out COVID first in those situations. So when someone reports symptoms, even if they have a negative test that same day, we’re going to hold that individual out of the facility. We’re also going to go ahead and contact trace to see if they have any of those high-risk contacts, and we’re going to pull those folks out of the facility.

“You have seen and will certainly see more instances where players, coaches and staff are out of the facility for one or two or three days, possibly even including a game day, because of the report of symptoms.”

That means the NFL is relying on the honor system: If players have flu-like symptoms, they are told to report them. It’s not likely everyone will adhere knowing reporting symptoms could mean missing a game.

The NFLPA rejected a request to make flu shots mandatory this season. The NFL, though, is encouraging everyone to get one.

Getting the flu could lead to a longer absence from the team facility than previous years since many flu-like symptoms also are symptoms for COVID-19.

“When in doubt, we’re going to go with the most conservative recommendation of keeping the person out, because we certainly don’t want to put anyone who might be infected on the field,” Sills said.