The NFL Is Investigating Its Testing Practices After ‘Several’ Teams Reportedly Had False Positives

The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns were among NFL teams that altered their practice schedules on Sunday following a number of reported positive tests for COVID-19, though some were believed to be false positives that stemmed from a single lab in New Jersey.

Reports on Sunday indicated a number of teams got back troubling test results from a New Jersey testing facility, causing the NFL to look into the results and their testing procedures as the league attempts to hold a season in the general population amid a still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The league released a statement on Sunday that said it was investigating the lab where results came back positive, with some “several” results coming back positive from teams serviced by that lab.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Chicago Bears were among those teams that had positives, though their nine tests were later thought to be false positives.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported Sunday that the NFL is exploring what happened at the New Jersey lab, which is performing tests in conjunction with BioReference, which is handling the NFL’s testing this season. The setup is meant to get results back to teams within 24 hours or less, but a number of positives that were later proven false caused teams to push back or alter their schedules on Sunday as the situation was sorted out. Not all test results were immediately proven to be false positives, though, including cases on the Cleveland Browns.

The Chicago Bears were among the teams affected, announcing that they received nine positive test results from their Saturday test regimen. All nine were determined to be false positive results, meaning none were actual indications of infection. The Bears moved back their morning practice to Sunday afternoon “out of an abundance of caution” while they sorted through them.

The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, canceled their Sunday practice entirely, saying they received results that indicated multiple “presumptive positive” tests from players, coaches and support staff. The Browns said those who had positive rests remain asymptomatic, but the team said Sunday’s meetings would be conducted virtually while the facility undergoes a “thorough deep cleaning and disinfecting process.”

The Buffalo Bills also pushed back the start of their practice by one hour, but did not say why.

The Bills and GM Brandon Beane later confirmed they moved practice back because of coronavirus testing, saying a number of players would miss practice while they wait for more results.

The Jets also suddenly had several positive cases.

The Steelers and Vikings announced they had tests come back positive as well.

The NFL’s statement on Sunday only indicated that it was investigating the results, but the reports indicate all the positives were traced back to the same lab in New Jersey. It’s a worrying development for the NFL, as even if the results were inaccurate it creates another potential issue in holding a season. If results came back positive, even falsely, the league and its teams would be faced with decisions about whether to hold players back or even cancel games if the results were widespread enough.

Thankfully this problem came up well before the start of the regular season and in a period where no preseason games were played, meaning there may still be time to figure out a system that works and keeps everyone safe as the league tries to pull off one of its most ambitious seasons in league history.