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Jets Transition Under NFL's New COVID-19 Protocols

Head Coach Robert Saleh Talks Responsibility; Laurent Duvernay-Tardif Feels Testing Changes Make Sense


During his Monday conference call with reporters, Jets head coach Robert Saleh referred to a "run" that had nothing to do with the ground game. Entering the weekend with eight players on the team's Reserve/COVID-19 list, Saleh told reporters that four more players had tested positive for the coronavirus.

"We had a bit of COVID run this morning," he said. "Foley [Folorunso Fatukasi], obviously, he's from the weekend. Tanzel Smart, JFM [John Franklin-Myers], [Sharrod] Neasman, Lamar Jackson and Vyncint [Smith]. They still have a chance to make it this week, they've got to go through the protocol with regards to asymptomatic plus two negatives and all that stuff, whatever the protocols are. But that's where we're at."

Jackson, Smart and Smith are practice squad players while Franklin-Myers and Neasman are on the active roster. The NFL and NFLPA recently changed the testing protocols, requiring that vaccinated and asymptomatic players are only subject to spot testing. While unvaccinated players continue to test daily, only vaccinated players with symptoms should be tested outside the strategic testing plan.

"I think our players are very cognizant, not only for themselves, but for their teammates," said Saleh, whose team moved back to virtual meetings last week. "Some players are showing asymptomatic, some are showing up symptomatic. So, I think if you're symptomatic, you should go test because you never know. You might give it somebody else and now the entire team has it. So, I think it's just more of responsibility thing until we really fully grasp what this thing is and until we really fully understand how we can beat it, so we can get to life back to normal."

Today's normal for the Jets, the NFL, the sports world and the general population is Omicron. Federal health officials say the new variant is accounting for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area. Jets veteran RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, a medical school graduate who opted out of the 2020 season to work as an orderly at a Montreal long-term care facility, expressed his support for the change in testing protocols.

"I used to sit on the COVID task force last year during my opt out year, and now I don't know exactly what went on and how they came to that decision," he said. "To me, it kind of makes sense. The fact that most of the players are vaccinated, but the vaccine doesn't really protect you fully against the variant, but it does protect you against severe cases or chances of hospitalization. I feel like it does make sense to treat only guys that are symptomatic or unvaccinated."

The NFL postponed three games last weekend and will finish its Week 15 slate with a two games Tuesday night: the Washington Football Team vs. the Eagles and the Rams vs. the Seahawks. The highly transmissible form of the virus and surge of COVID-19 cases has meant change for the league as it moves ahead with its schedule with a different testing pattern that emphasizes self-reporting.

"I guess we'll know more in the next week and we'll see after next Sunday what really happened in terms of number of cases and everything," Duvernay-Tardif said. "I just hope that guys are going to be honest with themselves, because at the end of the day they're putting me at risk as a player who is following the rules and the guidelines because they're going on the field with symptoms. So, at the end of the day, we're all in this together. The goal is obviously to finish the season, to play all the games, but it's also to stay healthy. I think we just got to be honest with ourselves."

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