by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The National Football League is facing a season plagued with multiple games being canceled due to policy changes in its COVID-19 protocols and policies for testing players.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced in July that games would be forfeited, not postponed, due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The forfeit would go to the team with the outbreak. During the 2020 season, outbreaks caused 10 games to be rescheduled.
Perhaps the more consequential change was to the league’s testing policy.
During the 2020 season, all players had to be tested daily. For 2021, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed that only unvaccinated players would be tested daily. Vaccinated players would be tested once every 14 days.
The policy change was intended to incentivize players to get vaccinated. It has proven relatively successful, with 93% of players either fully or partially vaccinated, according to the NFL.
However, the change occurred before the rise of the far more infectious delta variant that has resulted in numerous breakthrough infections in vaccinated people
On Thursday, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been vaccinated, tested positive for the virus. He has been placed on the Titans’ reserve/COVID-19 reserve list and can’t come off it until he tests negative twice in 24 hours.
Six other Titans players have tested positive recently. …
… The Titans are not the first team to experience a COVID-19 outbreak. The Players Association revealed that the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins had outbreaks during the first week of training camp. Last year, when daily testing was in place, the first outbreak didn’t occur until the third week of the preseason.
Without increased testing, Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis, is certain that the NFL will be facing many forfeits this season.