Detroit Lions going ahead with business as usual after Jarrad Davis’ COVID case; here’s why

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

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The San Francisco 49ers had a player test positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, and immediately shut down their practice facility.

The Denver Broncos, a day after team president John Elway tested positive for the virus, announced they were doing the same because a practice squad player returned a positive result.

Earlier this season, the Tennessee Titans had two games rescheduled after a widespread COVID outbreak. And the Green Bay Packers won’t have several running backs available for Thursday’s game against the 49ers because of contract tracing related to the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed routines throughout the NFL, but the Detroit Lions were on the practice field and in their Allen Park practice facility as usual Wednesday, on the same day Matthew Stafford joined Jarrad Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Far from an NFL double standard, the Lions’ ability to continue with business as usual was a credit to measures both the team and league have taken to combat the virus, and the specifics of Stafford’s and Davis’ case.

While NFL players must report for daily coronavirus testing, the Lions are holding all meetings virtual and eschewing their usual walk-through on the day after games. Per NFL protocols, players are limited to small groups for treatment and lifting sessions, and Tuesdays are an off day for most NFL teams.

Since the Lions placed Davis on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, he was not exposed to large groups of teammates after testing negative for the virus before Sunday’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Stafford was placed on the list after he reportedly had close contact with an infected person.

“We’re kind of always going to whatever level we think we need to, to accommodate where we are, and just I would say where the communities (are),” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “That’s really the biggest thing for us is what’s happening in the communities, and we understand that as those numbers increase, obviously, the opportunities or the situations for us (increase and) we have to be more careful in what we do inside the building. So from that standpoint, we’re always trying to improve, we’re always trying to adjust the facility to make sure that everyone can work safely.”

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Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia explains Nov. 4, 2020 how coronavirus affects Monday work in the NFL after Jarrad Davis tests positive for COVID-19.

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The Lions made extensive changes to their building before the season, repurposing meeting rooms, updating their locker room and adding dining areas to conform to state, local and league requirements.

Some of the changes the Lions made were part of broader NFL protocols, and some were done of their own volition.

Patricia said the Lions have “modified the building probably two or three times” since the start of the season, and that “there’s no need for us to shut down the facility” in light of Davis’ case.

No Lions player was withheld from practice Wednesday because he was deemed a close contact to Davis, Patricia said. Close contacts of confirmed COVID cases must isolate for at least five days.

“There’s no need for any of that as far as our situation,” Patricia said. “I can’t speak to the future. I think that right now, everybody across the country and especially in Michigan right now, with the cases going up, really no one knows what the next day’s going to look like. We just kind of do the best we can to stay safe today.”

NFL players are required to wear Kinexon tracking devices while in team facilities to help the league determine players at risk of transmission, and on Monday, the league issued enhanced sideline protocols related to physical distancing and mask-wearing on game days.

Typically, players within 6 feet of a positive case for 15 minutes or longer count as a close contact, but Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said last month others could fall in the category as well, if, for instance, they rode to work with a confirmed positive or dined with one for an extended period of time when both parties had their masks off.

“We’re going to look at the contact tracing data, we’re going to look at possible exposures, we’re going to look at possible source and we’re going to try to determine if we have some confidence in the degree of the team’s overall health,” Sills said. “Let’s be clear: Our goal is to never put anyone on the field that we think might be infected themselves or infectious to others. That’s always our goal in every situation. So I just think, as I mentioned earlier, each of these situations is unique. You have to evaluate the totality of the evidence.”

For the Lions, the totality of the evidence is that business can continue as usual for now.

Along with Wednesday’s practice, this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings remains on as scheduled, though in today’s NFL, things can change in a moment’s notice.

“(The league has) given us great guidelines, and I would say that what we try to do is maybe stay one step ahead of those guidelines as far as just on the precautionary level in case something is to happen,” Patricia said. “Again, I would say with the unfortunate cases in Michigan alone, just the increase there, we’re trying to do everything we can to keep this building safe, but we do know that it’s hard. It’s hard right now. We’re in the middle of a pandemic.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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