Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford: COVID-19 false positive ‘a little bit of a scary thing’

Detroit Free Press

Learning he tested positive for COVID-19 was “scary,” but Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said that diagnosis — which he later was told was a false positive — did not make him consider opting out of the 2020 season.

“I think like everybody, you hear it and you talk with your spouse and you talk with your family about it,” Stafford said Tuesday in his first video conference of Lions training camp. “I never gave it serious thought. I want to play football, I want to be out here. I have a supporting wife and family that know I love doing what I do and know it’s important to me so they were right on board there with me.”

Stafford tested positive for COVID-19 on July 31, after testing negative twice earlier that week.

The Lions put Stafford on the reserve/COVID-19 list the next day, then took him off three days later after Stafford tested negative for the virus three straight times.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills downplayed the notion of false positives, saying in a teleconference last week that the league’s tests are “incredibly accurate at detecting” small bits of RNA that match the sequence of the virus, though not all positives indicate a new infection.

Stafford said he and his family are “negative and healthy” to the best of his knowledge, though he did not doubt the veracity of the test results when they first came back.

“I had no reason to not believe the results, or whatever, except for the fact that I was feeling fine,” he said. “But there’s plenty of people out there that are positive and asymptomatic as well. So I think, yeah, there was no doubt there was some fear as I think everybody would have if they got a test that came back positive. And just knowing how much that I’m around and had been around my family and my kids, that’s a little bit of a scary thing. And then when everybody got tested and it all panned itself out, obviously you feel a whole lot better about it.”

When Stafford was cleared to return, his wife, Kelly, wrote on Instagram that the family had lived through “somewhat of a nightmare” in the days following Stafford’s positive test.

She said she was told she was “endangering others” during a trip to the grocery store and that her kids were harassed and kicked off a playground and told they couldn’t return to their school.

Stafford, who spent time self-isolating at his home while still attending virtual team meetings with the Lions, said the days immediately following his positive test weren’t as difficult on him.

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“Probably tougher for them than it was for me, but it was also really just tough for me knowing what they were going through, having to talk to her about how her days were and trying to deal with getting the kids back in school, all that,” he said. “There were just quite a few things that had to happen, but at the same time it’s not lost on me that there’s plenty of people that are having a much harder time than we did.

“Ours was a few days that lasted and got corrected, and I know the league is going to do everything they can to correct that. But at the same time there’s plenty of people walking out there, or not walking, that are in hospitals that are really fighting for their life. And that’s not lost on me or my family. We know that this virus is affecting a lot of people in much worse ways than it did us.”

The NFL changed its testing protocols last week after Stafford’s ordeal to allow players who test positive and are asymptomatic, like Stafford was, to undergo two confirmatory nasal tests the following day.

If both tests are negative, the player is not considered COVID positive and is allowed to resume team activities.

Stafford, who took his follow-up tests on successive days, said he’s glad his situation has turned into “a little bit of a learning situation for the league and teams and players.”

Had Stafford’s positive test happened on the same timeline in-season, he would have been forced to miss a game. Now, that won’t be the case, though a player who tests positive the day before a game still will have to sit out.

“I know everybody’s doing the best that they possibly can,” he said. “I’m glad that it happened to me at this point and the league is doing what they can to try and change and make sure this doesn’t happen again. But I’m sure there’s going to be another problem down the road at some point that we’re going to have to figure out when we get there. That’s the way this has been for the last six months, we’ve all been living it. Whether we’re a league trying to test thousands of players or just trying to go out and get our groceries. So we’ve got to understand that things are going to change and we’re going to have to adapt, but I’m glad it got settled about, it’s over with. I’m just happy to be in the building hanging with the guys, getting a little bit of normalcy back when it comes to football.”

Contact Dave Birkett at Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.

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