Oct 11, 2020; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Masked Kansas City Chiefs fans show their support during the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Dr. Allen Sills: Playing 2020 season kept NFL players, public healthy

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said playing the 2020 season kept players and the general public healthier, with a fractional positivity rate since testing began in August.

“We feel that our club facilities truly were some of the safest possible locations,” Sills said in a teleconference four days before Super Bowl LV is scheduled to kick off in Tampa, the conclusion of a tumultuous season played entirely during a pandemic.

The NFL positivity rate was .08 percent — 262 COVID-19 cases were among players and 463 positive tests were for team personnel.

There are currently no positive cases for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have two players, reserve interior offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, quarantined for close contact with a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.

“At this point, we feel like we’re in a good position with that. And we’ll just continue to monitor it,” Sills said.

ESPN reported at least 20 players and coaches were scheduled to visit the barber before the team learned of the positive test while Kilgore was in the middle of his haircut.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said even if those cases and others become positive tests, there is no fallback plan or alternative game date for the Super Bowl.

Sills said the NFL, which invested in daily testing and gene tracing of positive COVID-19 tests to find where the virus originated, did not uncover evidence of any player-to-player transmission during games. Most cases were traced to players gathering, sometimes without masks, away from the 32 team facilities in which strict COVID-19 protocols were in place and vehemently enforced.

Sills helped co-author a report with the CDC released last month. The CDC said the NFL plan was worth publication because it can be applied to the public.

“Implementation and evolution of mitigation measures, testing, and contact tracing in the National Football League, August 9-November 21, 2020” was made public on Jan. 25.

“The paper is a summary of our testing experience — what we learned from testing everyone throughout our entire season on a daily basis, but also what we learned from our contact-tracing process,” Sills said. “Through our daily investigations of positive tests, we began to have a much better understanding of when transmission of the virus could occur, and, most importantly, what steps could be taken to prevent transmission and keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Most NFL games were played with limited attendance. The Super Bowl is expecting an audience of around 25,000 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday night.

Sills said masks and social distancing remain part of the plan for fans, who will not occupy much of the lower bowl, which is covered and reserved for digital advertising.

–Field Level Media

Jan 24, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; A sign featuring Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) with COVID-19 protocol is seen before the AFC Championship Game against the Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

No players test positive in NFL’s latest COVID-19 results

No NFL players tested positive in the most recent round of COVID-19 testing, the league and the NFL Players Association announced Tuesday.

There was one positive test among other team personnel in the Jan. 24-30 testing period.

In all, 2,567 tests were administered to 152 players and 278 team personnel in advance of Super Bowl LV, set for Sunday between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa.

Throughout the testing period from Aug. 1 through Jan. 30, approximately 957,400 tests were administered. During that time, 262 players and 463 other personnel had confirmed positive cases.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense lines up against the Washington Football Team defense at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington closes facility after COVID-19 outbreak

The Washington Football Team closed its facility for the rest of the week after coaches and staff members tested positive for COVID-19, the team announced Wednesday.

NFL Network reported the positive cases came in the aftermath of a get-together outside of the team facility after Washington’s season ended in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

“Earlier this week we became aware that members of our organization tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a statement. “These individuals have now quarantined. All other players and staff who remain in the area continue to follow the testing cadence and guidelines under the offseason protocols. Out of an abundance of caution, however, we chose to close the Inova Sports Performance Center for several days and have the staff work from home.”

Washington won the NFC East with a 7-9 record but lost to Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; New Orleans Saints center Will Clapp (64) at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Saints’ Will Clapp tests positive for COVID-19

The New Orleans Saints will be without backup center Will Clapp for Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he tested positive for COVID-19, according to NFL Network.

Luckily for the Saints, contact tracing has apparently shown no high-risk close contacts.

Clapp, 25, played in just nine games this season, including some snaps on special teams.

He was on the field for just four special field plays in the Saints’ 21-9 wild-card victory over the Chicago Bears last week.

–Field Level Media

Oct 11, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive guard Joel Bitonio (75) is introduced before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Browns activate G Joel Bitonio off COVID-19 list

The Cleveland Browns activated veteran left guard Joel Bitonio off the reserve/COVID-19 list in advance of Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bitonio was added to the list on Jan. 5, and he was the final player to be activated. A week ago, eight Browns were on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and coach Kevin Stefanski also missed the wild-card win over the Pittsburgh Steelers after testing positive.

On Wednesday, cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson were activated.

Bitonio, 29, is the longest-tenured member of the Browns and a three-time Pro Bowl selection. He started all 16 regular-season games this season and has played in 95 games in all since the Browns selected him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

In a corresponding move, the Browns waived safety Tedric Thompson.

–Field Level Media

Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  An usher holds a sign as a  reminder of COVID-19 restrictions in place for fans during the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Latest NFL testing produces 25 positives (three players)

The National Football League and NFL Players Association reported 25 positive COVID-19 tests during the first week of the postseason.

Three players and 22 staff members tested positive during the period from Jan. 3-9, down from 70 positive tests in the final week of the regular season.

There were 17,459 tests administered to 2,933 players and team personnel. Among those, 6,850 tests were administered to 1,037 players and 10,609 tests were conducted among 1,896 personnel.

Since monitoring began on Aug. 1, a total of 259 players and 454 other personnel have had confirmed positive tests for COVID-19. Approximately 939,680 tests were administered through Jan. 9.

Testing will continue among the eight teams that remain in the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) runs the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Chris Wormley (95) moves in for the tackle during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Browns return to practice; Steelers in good shape

The Cleveland Browns were cleared to return to practice Friday afternoon — their first practice of the week as they prepare for the franchise’s first playoff game since 2002.

The team’s facility in Berea, Ohio, had been closed since Tuesday after head coach Kevin Stefanski was among five members of the organization to test positive for COVID-19.

ESPN reported that all Browns players tested negative on Thursday and Friday, with only assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters testing positive.

Stefanski will miss Sunday night’s playoff game in Pittsburgh; special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will be the acting head coach and offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays against the Steelers.

Eight Browns players remain on the COVID-19 list, including Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, safety Ronnie Harrison, tight end Harrison Bryant, cornerback Denzel Ward and receiver KhaDarel Hodge.

Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones cleared concussion protocol and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Also questionable are tackle Jack Conklin (knee/illness), defensive end Myles Garrett (shoulder), cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell (not injury related) and M.J. Stewart (calf), defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (neck) and guard Wyatt Teller (ankle).

The Steelers enter Sunday night’s home game at Heinz Field in much better shape.

Kicker Chris Boswell (groin) was limited in practice on Friday — the only player who wasn’t a full participant.

Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was listed on Thursday’s injury report with a knee issue, was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

Defensive end Isaiah Buggs (illness), safety Terrell Edmunds (shoulder), cornerback Steven Nelson (knee), defensive end Tyson Alualu (ankle) and linebacker Vince Williams (quad) also were full participants on Friday.

The Browns and Steelers split their two games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  The Pittsburgh Steelers take the field to play the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers, Browns to play before limited crowd of 2,500

Seating capacity at Sunday night’s wild-card game in Pittsburgh between the Steelers and the Cleveland Browns will be limited to 2,500.

Tickets will not be sold, and the people in the seats at Heinz Field will be guests of the Steelers. The decision follows orders of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to reduce capacity in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Earlier this season, the Steelers sold limited tickets, with a season high of 5,909 fans against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 15 before Wolf’s order took effect.

“We are disappointed we will not be able to host our season ticket holders and other fans at Heinz Field on Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns in our AFC Wild Card Game,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said. “We were hoping to receive approval to host fans for the playoffs at a capacity similar to our games in October and November, but unfortunately the state’s orders will only permit 2,500 total people in the building, including players, coaches and staff. This will limit fans in the seating bowl to family and friends of players and the team.”

The Steelers, the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs, and the No. 6 Browns are scheduled to kick off Sunday at 8:15 p.m. in the final of six wild-card games this weekend.

The AFC North rivals split their season series. The Steelers won at home on Oct. 18, 38-7. The Browns won 24-22 in Cleveland in the regular-season finale on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Oct 18, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski looks at his play chart a during the second quarter gainst the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Browns’ facility remains closed pending test results

The Cleveland Browns’ training facility remained closed Wednesday pending additional COVID-19 test results.

The team announced Tuesday that head coach Kevin Stefanski and four others members of the organization had tested positive, making them unavailable for Sunday night’s wild-card game at Pittsburgh.

As the Browns prepare virtually for the Steelers, ESPN said the team is awaiting the results of additional testing done on potential high-risk close contacts of Stefanski, tight ends coach Drew Petzing, defensive backs coach Jeff Howard, Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio and wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will serve as the acting head coach Sunday and multiple outlets reported that offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt will call the plays in lieu of Stefanski.

The Browns closed their facility on three separate days last week after learning of positive tests for COVID-19.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions acting head coach Robert Prince sprints down the field with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field. Prince assumed the head coaching duties for the game after Lions interim head coach Darrell Bevell was deemed a high-risk close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 positive case. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

COVID-19 positives rise again in NFL

The National Football League and NFL Players Association reported 70 positive COVID-19 tests in the most recent testing period, up from 58 last week.

A total of 34 players and 36 staff members tested positive during the period from Dec. 27-Jan. 2.

There were 40,709 tests administered to 6,702 players and team personnel. Among those, 16,088 tests were administered to 2,356 players, with an additional 24,621 tests conducted among 4,346 personnel.

Since monitoring began on Aug. 1, a total of 256 players and 432 other personnel have had confirmed positive tests for COVID-19. Approximately 922,220 tests were administered through Jan. 2.

Testing will continue among the 14 teams that have qualified for the playoffs.

–Field Level Media