NFL, NFLPA react to Omicron variant with relaxed testing protocols

With a growing number of players testing positive for COVID-19, the NFL and NFLPA announced new testing protocols Saturday that aim to test vaccinated players less often.

“The NFL and NFLPA have been engaged with our medical advisors to address the emergence of the new Omicron variant and how to stop the spread to ensure we keep everyone safe and complete the remainder of the season responsibly,” a joint statement reads. “After this weekend’s games, we have agreed to put into place a new set of protocols, which will include a more targeted testing plan, more flexibility for players to attend meetings virtually and also a high-risk player opt-out for the remainder of the season.”

In a memo sent to teams, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the Omicron variant “significantly more contagious but possibly less severe than previous variants.”

The solution to the surge of players landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list, according to the NFL and NFLPA, is to continue testing unvaccinated players daily, but scale back testing of vaccinated, asymptomatic players.

The announcement of the new testing protocols comes one day after the NFL rescheduled three Week 15 games due to mounting COVID cases. The Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders will now play Monday night instead of Saturday. Games between Washington and the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks will both happen Tuesday.

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