The NFL on Wednesday announced changes to its return-to-play requirements for players who test positive for COVID-19.
According to a memo shared by NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero, players must meet the following benchmarks before rejoining their teams:
For asymptomatic players:
1. Ten days have passed since the initial positive test OR
2. Two consecutive negative PCR virus tests separated by 24 hours AND
3. Return approved by the team physician after consultation with medical experts at Infection Control Education for Major Sports (ICS) and notification of NFL Chief Medical Officer
For symptomatic players:
1. At least 10 days have passed since the date symptoms of COVID-19 were first reported to team medical staff AND
2. At least 24 hours have passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications AND
3. Other symptoms (e.g. cough, shortness of breath) have improved AND
4. Return approved by the team physician after consultation with ICS and notification of NFL Chief Medical Officer AND
5. Local regulations and requirements are satisfied
These new protocols will directly impact the New England Patriots, who now have had two of their highest-profile players (quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore) test positive in the last five days. The Patriots also placed practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday.
The NFL’s initial guidelines stipulated asymptomatic players must sit out at least five days following their positive test. That requirement has been removed.
Newton, who tested positive late last Friday, had no symptoms as of Tuesday afternoon, according to multiple reports. Gilmore, who tested positive Tuesday, announced Wednesday he also is asymptomatic.
The Patriots are scheduled to host the Denver Broncos this Sunday at Gillette Stadium. If both are asymptomatic and each returns two negative tests this week, Newton and Gilmore theoretically could play in that game.
In the wake of Gilmore’s positive test, the Patriots canceled practice Wednesday and Thursday.