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NFL union sees no current need for bubble to slow COVID-19

FILE - In this  Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 file photo, Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter stands on the field during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Cleveland. The NFL players believe the season can be completed on time without the league moving into a version of a postseason bubble like other sports have as long as everyone follows the rules already in place meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. NFLPA President JC Tretter and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith held a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 to discuss the challenges the players have felt this season while playing during a global pandemic and address how things will change in the future. (AP Photo/David Richard, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 file photo, Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter stands on the field during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Cleveland. The NFL players believe the season can be completed on time without the league moving into a version of a postseason bubble like other sports have as long as everyone follows the rules already in place meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus. NFLPA President JC Tretter and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith held a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020 to discuss the challenges the players have felt this season while playing during a global pandemic and address how things will change in the future. (AP Photo/David Richard, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The NFL players believe the season can be completed on time without the league moving into a version of a postseason bubble like other sports have as long as everyone follows the rules already in place meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

NFLPA President JC Tretter and Executive Director DeMaurice Smith held a virtual news conference on Tuesday to discuss the challenges the players have felt this season while playing during a global pandemic and address how things will change in the future.

Both Tretter and Smith said that the rules in place requiring players and staff to be tested daily, wear masks, socially distance and have tracers for contact tracing have helped prevent the spread of the virus.

They believe if everyone adheres to those rules over the next two months there would be no need for teams to sequester in hotels to avoid contact with the public.

“When we all follow the protocols, they work and they work well,” Tretter said. “The contact tracing, getting everyone who potentially are exposed out of the building, works to stop the spread of the virus. It will all come down to how well we follow those protocols and we will continue to evolve those protocols as needed. We know they work and we need to make sure we have 100% compliance to finish the season.”

Tretter and Smith didn’t rule out the possibility that circumstances could change if the rate of infection in surrounding communities continues to rise, but said the situation in football is different with much bigger rosters than the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

Smith also said that epidemiologists that the union consults with said moving into a bubble with such a large roster carries its own risks because it could make the virus spread even more if someone does happen to get it.

Tretter, a center on the Cleveland Browns, said there is also a human aspect to consider.

“Our players have wives and kids at home that they want to see,” he said. “It’s been a tough year from a mental health perspective for our players. The feeling of isolation of not being able to see people, their friends and family. Further asking guys to stay away from their young kids and family for six weeks is a big ask and has ramifications outside of the game of football.”

The league and union released the latest results from testing that showed the rate of positive tests fell last week to 0.11% from 0.20% the previous week and rate of incidences fell to 0.74% from 1.35%.

In all, there were 18 new confirmed positive tests last week among players and 27 among other personnel, raising the numbers since Aug. 1 to 173 players and 297 personnel.

Union spokesman George Atallah said that 90% of players that test positive do so within five days of exposure. That is why the league and union have decided to isolate “high-risk” close contacts for a five-day period to make sure they continue to test negative.

That has led to some issues such as Denver being forced to play a game against New Orleans in Week 12 without any quarterbacks after backup Jeff Driskel tested positive and the three other QBs on the team were deemed “high risk” close contacts after they all were together unmasked during a film session.

That day of that game wasn’t moved, while others have been when there has been concern that the virus could still be spreading through a team, making it more risky to play

“We’re in a world where things won’t all be perfect,” Smith said. “We have to make decisions on the information and data we have at the time.”

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