Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said he was very pleased with how the league’s new COVID-19 protocols worked in the opening game Thursday night, and the feedback from the Texans and Chiefs was overwhelmingly positive.

The league has earned high accolades — and justifiably so — for its handling of the pandemic to this point, with just one new confirmed positive case among the entire player pool in the last two weeks and not a single team limited in its training camp preparation by the virus. However, as Sills noted, two new significant variables entered the equation this week: the element of travel, and actual games being played between competing teams.

The NFL will be analyzing how well the game-day protocols and travel rules are operating each weekend, with the understanding that it is impossible to account for every scenario given the nature of this virus. There were no issues with the hotels, or transit or game-day standards.

“That’s something we’re always assessing and we’ll be doing a post-game debrief for everyone,” said Sills, who was in attendance at Kansas City Thursday night to be able to see everything first hand and be available to teams if need be. “The initial reports back from Thursday night were very positive. Both clubs did a great job of adhering to all of our protocols and being creative and thoughtful with everything that they did.”

Sills gave high marks to everything he witnessed Thursday.

“Everything flowed very well and there was tremendous adherence to everything we put in place,” Sills said. “Despite the fact that there were a lot of things different leading up to the game, and even different during the game, in no way did it affect what we saw on the field.”

The NFL enters Week 1 without any COVID-related problems to deal with, which seems miraculous given the scope of the pandemic in this country and how deeply it impacted some communities where NFL football is played.

“We have to give a tremendous amount of credit to all of the clubs and players and coaches and staff,” Sills said. “They did a tremendous job during training camp and it is a truly remarkable achievement to keep the case level so low in the midst of areas where there was still quite a bit of cases that were endemic to those locations.”

Thus far, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to continue the current scale of daily testing into the season, but there has not been any announcement of how long these protocols would remain in place. A layperson might say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Sills said he understands that sentiment, but the league is not ready to put a firm timeline on how long these rules will remain in place moving forward.

As Sills put it, the league “did not put a timestamp” on the current regulations and will continue to assess how its operations are working as well as those of other sports leagues. Being open to change has been imperative during the pandemic, and the league and union maintain a regular strong dialogue about all COVID-related matters.

“In terms of a timeline, when you think about now until the end of our season,” Sills said, “it’s almost the same amount of time has transpired since the pandemic started … It’s hard to look too far down the road, and we just look at small segments and one game at a time and one week at a time.”


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