NFL insider notes: What new COVID protocols will mean, plus top six Super Bowl contenders, John Madden legacy

It did not take long for the NFL and NFLPA to adopt the new CDC recommendation on length of quarantine and when infected individuals should be cleared to return to work. As expected.

In the last two weeks, NFL team officials were scrambling wildly, as the recent protocol changes between the league and the union were not lessening the load of players on the COVID restricted list; in fact, the ranks of players withheld from practice and play were soaring like never before. More than 300 in just a few weeks, and in some cases over 100 players a day. While all would be remiss in trying to predict much in this pandemic, it certainly appears that government officials, the NFL and the NFLPA are anticipating that the new five-day window for vaccinated and unvaccinated players to be eligible to return to their teams should cut down on the absences and give clubs a better handle on when to anticipate players returning.

As always, there are caveats. A symptomatic player cannot automatically return after five days, and the onus remains on individual responsibility to be honest about that information. Unvaccinated players remain subject to daily testing. But the vast majority of the league’s population will not have to test out of quarantine, though they will be required to wear a mask for the following five days, as the CDC recommends as part of its changes this week.

“It feels like an important step forward,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, during a media conference call Tuesday night.

And it is one Sills said he and his team anticipated, given what the data was already indicating among the NFL’s cohort. Sills said the NFL has been in regular contact with the CDC, sharing its metrics on how the virus was operating, and “the updated protocols are based on emerging data and emerging science,” as Sills put it. A vaccinated player could still conceivably test out of…

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