Should asymptomatic players with COVID be allowed to play?

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals
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This is an idea that will be as polarizing as everything else has been and will continue to be about the pandemic. Given the NFL’s current protocols — which in many respects make no sense — it’s an idea that will keep more players on the field with minimal risk that the virus will spread.

Here it is. Asymptomatic players who are positive for COVID should be allowed to play.

Yep, I said it. There’s no evidence that the virus spreads during games. And for good reason. They’re either outdoors or operating in domes with sky-high ceilings and state-of-the-art ventilation. Also, their face-to-face encounters are quick and fleeting. They don’t have enough time and confinement for sufficient amounts of virus to pass from one player to another.

We know that in part because, through nearly two full regular seasons and the 2020 postseason, there’s no evidence that teams with COVID outbreaks gave COVID to opposing players during games. And there definitely have been positive players playing in games.

Especially this year. The NFL’s vaccination incentive, as developed jointly with the NFL Players Association, dangled the promise of less frequent testing for those who get jabbed. Originally, vaccinated players would be tested once every 14 days. Now, they’re tested once per week.

And so some players, like Rams receiver Odell Beckham Jr., got their once-per-week test the day after a game, and (as with Beckham) they’re positive. Does anything think he wasn’t positive the night before he tested positive?

Two weeks ago, Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt had an uncharacteristically quiet game against the Bengals. The next day, he tested positive. By Friday, the virus had exited his system. It’s reasonable to think that he had it and either didn’t realize it or thought it was a cold or whatever and fought through it. Some symptoms can easily be concealed or downplayed by players who are determined to slip through the cracks and earn their money by playing the sport they love.

So, yes, every week players are playing in games with COVID. This week especially, with so many players testing positive on Monday, players with COVID definitely played in games. Given what we know about the spread of the virus, there’s no reason to arbitrarily prevent players who are COVID positive and unaffected by it from playing in games, because there’s no reason to think it is transmitted during games.

The protections would be more relevant in the locker room and via the manner in which the player is transported to the game site. That could get tricky, with a private plane having a hermetically sealed cockpit being the only responsible way to get a player to a road game not in driving distance.

Regardless, as the pandemic becomes endemic to the population, this issue isn’t about to go away. The league has coexisted with the cold and the flu for decades. Although this specific illness, as evidenced by 800,000 deaths in the United States alone, can be much, much worse than conditions to which we’ve become accustomed, it continues to not affect many people who get it. Why should those people, if they are NFL players, be prevented from playing?

It’s a question that the league and union must ask themselves immediately, and that they must answer as quickly as they can. Perhaps just in time to avoid having key players who are positive for the virus but healthy enough to play miss postseason games that start next month.

80 responses to “Should asymptomatic players with COVID be allowed to play?

  1. Yes. Everyone is tired of this. They have dragged this out FAR too long. More people have died from other illnesses then this. This was always about control and nothing more.

  2. Good question for the end of the season and off season when they put rules in for next year. Heck extend it beyond football, like real life vs mask mandates. It should have been considered before this season, but you can’t change it now when it’s impacted player availability and game outcomes up to this point. Altering it now would be like eliminating pass interference calls now, because they finally realize they don’t know how to judge them.

  3. Should players with colds be allowed to play ? The flu? This virus is not going away and the players get over it quickly enough. We can’t protect eveyone from coming in contact with it when it’s eveywhere . Leave it be and quit changing the world over it. If the vaccines worked then why are the majority of the people getting it ones that have been vaccinated ?

  4. The NFL will wait until mahonmes or Brady tests positive, and only then will they change course to ensure that they can play. Otherwise all other teams will get screwed.

  5. I think evidence of the effects of the virus on vaccinated vrs non-vaccinated persons is being seen. The biggest risk of what you propose naturally would be to those who have refused the vaccine.

  6. Finally the media is catching up to what I said a year and a half ago at the beginning of this, that Asymptomatic people can not spread the virus.

  7. Yes, they should be allowed to play. Then the next step would be, at some point we stop testing asymptomatic people. Then things will move back towards normal.

  8. And what about the players who don’t want to play with other known-Covid-positive players?

  9. NO.

    Rules have been in place since beginning of season and UNFAIR to teams and/or game results if you just switch it in the middle. If you got the virus, you’re out. PERIOD.

  10. Natural immunity antibody levels should be the first thing that is changed to be considered protected.

    Throughout our human history, the human bodys’ ability to create these antibodies has been our best weapon against evolving virus’.

  11. Holy smokes, a Florio covid article that I actually agree with? Is common sense FINALLY going to prevail?

  12. It will never happen. Think of the PR nightmare the NFL would face allowing COVID positive players to play. All over the county employees who are also asymptomatic or where in contact with COVID positive people are being forced to miss work. That includes jobs that occur outside such as construction. This has become the standard in the country if not most of the world. The NFL is already constantly bashed for not doing enough to keep players safe. Going outside this new normal and creating the perception that they are risking players health when everyone else is quarantining when positive would create endless criticism from the media that wouldn’t go away any time soon.

  13. Agreed. Enough already. Only the naïve believe Covid will go away soon. Ultimately, we have to get back to a normal way of life. Those that fear the virus, vaccinate. Those that do not, good luck. I no longer care.

  14. “ Should asymptomatic players with COVID be allowed to play?”

    Yes. And they always should have been.

    TJ Watt, OBJ, and others are not the at-risk population that the 75-years-old-with-comorbidities are.

  15. No.
    And yes, there are several examples where one team has +be players, play a game, and then the opposing team has +be players.
    Coincidence??

  16. yes, Yes, YES. Should apply everywhere – schools, workplace, etc, especially since each variant is getting milder and milder.

  17. Any predictions on whether there will be any forfeits under the COVID protocols put in place earlier this season by the NFL?

  18. What about people with the flu who aren’t symptomatic? Or colds? Or sinus infections? Pneumonia? Etc etc…

    This is the issue with testing healthy people.

  19. Ok, but you cant have it both ways then. Stop testing everyone. Just players with symptoms. Then you don’t even have this issue to begin with. Why test everyone if you want the players without symptoms to play? Stop the testing unless there’s a symptom then nobody will be positive with Covid to begin with. My guess is with the people involved mostly being professional athletes between the ages of 21-30, there are rarely symptoms anyway.

  20. If like you said there is no evidence the virus spreads during games, then let them play. Common sense people.

  21. The players might not be at risk of infection on the field but elsewhere, who knows.
    Situations differ depending where the interactions with covid positive players are. It’s unlikely on the sidelines, more likely in the locker rooms, team buses, and flights.
    And that’s just the risk to other players and coaches. You didn’t mention possible exposure to stadium staff, whether security personnel or locker room attendants, there is more than just player health to be considered.
    If it was a contained environment where the chances of transmission are just between these absurdly gifted athletes, it might not be such a bad idea. But it isn’t, and therefore is a bad idea.

  22. Good on you for coming around to the endemic reality of COVID, Florio.

    I’m all for vaccination. And for boosting those who have not already had the virus (no real benefit if you are vaxxed and prior infected).

    But it’s time to accept that COVID is going to be with us like influenza. Hopefully Omicron is like a nasty, nasty cold. One we can make less threatening with vaccines and antivirals. It’s going to be here forever just like the other, less dangerous, human coronaviruses that give us colds.

    If a player tests positive but isn’t sick.. he should play. If he develops symptoms of a bad cold, sure, hold him out. Honestly, I don’t want a player with a bad case of the flu going out on the field either.

    It’s time. It’s past time, in fact. This is the only way forward. Let’s do it.

  23. I agree that the risk of spreading it during a game is minimal, but people can shed the virus and infect others for 14 days post infection. I would recommend that they be allowed to play, but to use strict hand washing, PPE and distance when at the team facility for practice, avoid working out and attending team meetings during the 14 days after infection.

  24. Yes. Those who want to should go about their lives like normal. Those who want to cower in fear over this forever should also free to do so if they wish.

  25. To my knowledge, with millions of test done to date, from hundreds of locations with several different type of test made by several different companies, Nobody has proven the accuracy of the testing.
    Nobody has mentioned that asymptomatic often means false positive testing. How many false positives have been proven by next day non-positive testing

  26. It’s just football man. No, they shouldn’t play, nor should they just walk around and act like they don’t have the virus. Aside from the young, strong, and healthy football players, guess who else is around these guys that test positive for covid? Coaches, equipment managers, trainers, janitors, television people, and a long long list of others that might not be able to just shake off the virus. That’s like when people said kids aren’t affected much, so they should be able to just continue going to school, while ignoring the teachers and everybody else that may get infected, and actually die. No, they should not play or be around people if they are known positive for covid.

  27. I wonder if these tests will magically disappear come payoff time, or is the league willing to completely ruin playoff teams for a virus that’s of no consequence to professional athletes.

  28. WHO says they do not transmit it if asymptomatic so if thats the case why wouldnt they be allowed to.

  29. There is still the issue of passing the virus on to more vulnerable people. People like, for example, coaches who are senior citizens or have co-morbidities. I’m going to guess that Bruce Arians and Ron Rivera, for example, don’t want anyone who tests positive to be anywhere onsite, regardless of whether the player is symptomatic.

    I doubt there will be changes to the NFL protocols this season. Next season, yes. But for this season, it will be business as usual: change nothing and hope for the best. I also wouldn’t be surprised if testing frequency goes way down during the playoffs and before the Super Bowl–without any formal announcement. If disaster happens, like a starting QB testing positive before a playoff game or the Super Bowl, then there will be a mad scramble because that’s what the NFL does.

  30. Ive been saying this 4ever but of course i was labeled anti science, anti vaxer, etc. None of these Protocols ever made sense unless ur goal is to cause chaos. Stop testing asymptomatic ppl, regardless of their vax status.

  31. No, of course not.

    We know that asymptomatic people can pass the virus. We can’t have it both ways. COVID persists because the world has half-assed its response, but then people want to act like there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Over 5 million people have died from COVID worldwide and yet some want to just deny that it’s a threat, or that doing MINIMAL things to protect yourself and others is too much.

  32. Even if the risk of transmission to opponents is minimal, this week showed the risk to spreading it among teammates would be high still. You also would have to put rules in place about not interacting with fans.

  33. “asymptomatic” as determined by the player? Then any player who admits to symptoms would be called out as not a team player.

  34. This could have all been avoided if the NFL would have made vaccination a requirement to be employed.

  35. I think the whole system is silly and people should be allowed to play.

    At this point if you aren’t going to get vaxxed you aren’t going to get it. With the rate of infections obviously vaxxed people are passing it around just as much and people’s choice if they want that negligible risk of severe symptoms.

    IN the case playing by the rules, if your vaxxed and asymptomatic there is no reason you shouldn’t be allowed to play.

  36. No, of course not.

    We know that asymptomatic people can pass the virus. We can’t have it both ways. COVID persists because the world has half-assed its response, but then people want to act like there’s nothing we can do about it.

    Over 5 million people have died from COVID worldwide and yet some want to just deny that it’s a threat, or that doing MINIMAL things to protect yourself and others is too much.

    ===

    No Covid has persisted because it’s a new virus that is never going to go away just like SARS and MERS, and the Flu etc. It adds basically zero risk to your life and at this point even the omicron variant for unvaxxed is literally a bad cold for like 99.9% of people. It’s time to stop living in fear of something that was never really a threat.

  37. COVID is here to stay, just like the flu. It is not going away, it’s getting weaker but spreads easier. We’re WAY beyond the “just don’t want to overwhelm hospitals” lie, time to resume normal life. The sooner we do it the quicker life can return to normal.

  38. ghjjf says:

    December 15, 2021 at 10:03 am

    This could have all been avoided if the NFL would have made vaccination a requirement to be employed.

     
    All the players and coaches testing positive here are all vaxed, but keep blaming the unvaxed.
     

  39. “Yep, I said it. There’s no evidence that the virus spreads during games” It is spreading somehow though. I think it is fair to suspect (not with certainty) that large men physically exerting themselves and then breathing heavily into each other’s faces from a distance as little as the length of a football from each other COULD pass a virus. Watch a cold weather game and see their breaths envelope the line of scrimmage.

  40. Never would have guessed in a million years I’d agree with you. It’s time for common sense to prevail rather than media and social media hysteria. Viruses are a part of human evolution. Sadly and unfortunately the vulnerable succumb. The rest develop antibodies and go on. Our grandparents/great grandparents survived the Spanish flu, which killed 5% of the population. Athletes are generally the healthiest individuals, let them play. If anybody is concerned, of course sit out. The sooner we get back to normal living, the sooner this will disappear completely or turn into the next form of common cold.

  41. Here is the solution STOP THE TESTING. That’s what I would do just don’t test. People are right its about control.

  42. The key is to look for virus shedding, not infection, everyday.
    The current NFL test scheme is poorly put together. Unvaccinated gets antigen test everyday (NFL get this right by accident). Vaccinated gets PCR test once a week, done on Mon to Wed, leaving a potential 7 days gap.
    The “gold standard” PCR test looks for a tiny bit of generic material of the virus (or broken virus). It is more sensitive and can defect infection may be 12 hours earlier than antigen test can. But it also detects the “broken virus” after the shedding cycle, giving it a false positive result to a recovering patient.
    The answer is to admin antigen test, looking for the actual virus/spike, everyday and everyone. The key word is everyday Infected adults can shed virus for average 5 days, with or without symptoms. Once the virus is detected early in the cycle, there is still enough time to remove the patient. After the shedding cycle, patient/player can play football if he is physically able.
    The current once a week PCR test makes no sense.

  43. I wonder if the league would allow it at this point, vs. changing the rules starting next season. If they change the rules now, the whole narrative falls apart, not just for the NFL, but across America, in the realm of public perception. Not sure that will be allowed to happen, whether it’s the right thing to do or not.

  44. footballfan1990 says:
    December 15, 2021 at 10:27 am

    All the players and coaches testing positive here are all vaxed, but keep blaming the unvaxed.
    ———————————

    You’re missing the point. The only reason they are testing anyone is due to the presence of unvaccinated personnel. So yes, it is their fault that everyone has to be tested.

  45. If players who test positive for the flu can play, players who test positive for COVID should be able to play.

  46. chrism0228 says:
    December 15, 2021 at 10:32 am
    Here is the solution STOP THE TESTING. That’s what I would do just don’t test. People are right its about control.
    ___________

    Exactly how are medical scientists trying to control you? Why would they want to? Were you being controlled when you received your inoculations prior to grade school?

  47. Not sure what asymptomatic has to do with the discussion but it’s a disease that’s minimally dangerous to the demographic playing the sport and it’s not going anywhere. If not right now GUARANTEED the day will come when guys with Covid will play just like the flu or any other malady you can think of. It’ll eventually normalize to the point they won’t even bother testing to see if it’s Covid, the flu or a common cold.

  48. If Mike is finally coming around, then maybe we are over the nonsense and common sense is finally returning….. A resounding yes.

  49. If I were a player, I would be opposed to this. If players will lie about their vax status, they will not mention their symptoms if it means they get to play. It is not just on the field stuff, they will be in a locker room with teammates while able to spread the disease. Many of these players have families that include children who cannot be vaccinated. Not worth the risk.

  50. mogogo1 says:
    December 15, 2021 at 10:56 am
    Not sure what asymptomatic has to do with the discussion but it’s a disease that’s minimally dangerous to the demographic playing the sport and it’s not going anywhere. If not right now GUARANTEED the day will come when guys with Covid will play just like the flu or any other malady you can think of. It’ll eventually normalize to the point they won’t even bother testing to see if it’s Covid, the flu or a common cold.
    ____________

    So your solution is to do nothing other than to wait for covid19 to “normalize”. Forget about the people who currently contract the virus and suffer death or debilitating physical conditions. You prefer to sacrifice those people instead of taking perfectly reasonable and simple actions like getting vaccinated and distancing will prevent untold suffering.

  51. 800,000 dead Americans. The virus doesn’t care if you are “sick of it”, or tired of it disrupting your lives. And like I said earlier, there are more than just the NFL players to consider. Until people stop refusing to get the vaccine, this is the way things will be for a while. And then, yes, mostly the vaccinated will actually get the virus. But the death toll will be much lower.

  52. gibson45 says:
    December 15, 2021 at 11:13 am
    mogogo1 says:
    December 15, 2021 at 10:56 am
    Not sure what asymptomatic has to do with the discussion but it’s a disease that’s minimally dangerous to the demographic playing the sport and it’s not going anywhere. If not right now GUARANTEED the day will come when guys with Covid will play just like the flu or any other malady you can think of. It’ll eventually normalize to the point they won’t even bother testing to see if it’s Covid, the flu or a common cold.
    ____________

    So your solution is to do nothing other than to wait for covid19 to “normalize”. Forget about the people who currently contract the virus and suffer death or debilitating physical conditions. You prefer to sacrifice those people instead of taking perfectly reasonable and simple actions like getting vaccinated and distancing will prevent untold suffering

    ——-

    Perhaps those people at risk should take greater care of themselves and the rest of us should go on with our lives. If you are worried, by al means, stay home, wear a mask in your car by yourself…. Just don’t expect the rest of society to do the same

  53. Only after the COVID pill is approved for use. Can’t take any chances. The players may be fine but what about other vulnurable people attending games?

  54. Of course. There is zero risk to NFL players and the vast majority of people . We need to get rid of all masking, testing, etc. Honestly you should get tested if you are sick enough to be hospitalized and that’s it. Yes a lot of people have died but the vast majority are the elderly. I don’t mean this as insensitive but frankly Covid is essentially culling the herd which isnt so bad. If you are at risk stay home. Everyone else back to life as normal.

  55. After reading all the comments it’s even clearer why 800,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. Until the unvaccinated man up and get vaccinated this pandemic will continue.
    Minnesota is so overwhelmed by COVID that the medical community is begging the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, funny how no one mentions that.
    Stop with the BULL, COVID-19 is a serious disease that could be stopped if people would just get vaccinated!

  56. Easy call. Hell no. Asymptomatic doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying a virus load. If they are carrying a virus load, why would anybody want them in a locker room or on a team plane?

  57. No one, in any capacity in this society should be told they are not allowed to work even tho they don’t feel sick. Stop testing people who feel fine.

  58. Just ask Dakota Dozier what he thinks of your plan. He was so sick he was admitted to a hospital for a week. Older coaches, I’m looking at you Mike Zimmer, probably also have different thoughts about your plan.

  59. Key players missed games in the first 15 weeks and some teams will probably miss the playoffs because of it. And now we are talking about changing the rules? Keep the rules for the entire season, that’s the only fair option. After that, if you want to put at risk the life of some old and out of shape coaches… we all know that wearing a mask on the sideline will not happen.

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