INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL is reducing isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days from 10.
The league and the NFL Players Association revised the protocols on Tuesday after the CDC changed its guidelines for those who are asymptomatic, recommending a five-day isolation period and masking over the second five days.
The changes could allow Colts quarterback Carson Wentz to return for Sunday’s key game against Las Vegas after Indianapolis placed him on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
It was not immediately clear whether Wentz, who is unvaccinated, tested positive for the virus or was deemed a close contact to someone else who had tested positive. However, if Wentz has no symptoms, he could be cleared to play.
In a memo sent to teams and obtained by The Associated Press, players and essential football personnel can return under the following conditions:
— Five days have passed since a positive COVID-19 test.
— At least 24 hours have passed since the individual last had a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
— Other symptoms, including a cough, have resolved or improved.
— The club’s head primary care sports medicine physician, after consultation with Infection Control for Sports and notification of the NFL chief medical officer, determines that the individual may return to the club facility and interact with other club employees/contractors.
— Any local regulations or requirements are satisfied.
Fully vaccinated individuals may continue to “test out” of isolation sooner than five days after the positive test, and should stop testing at Day 5 and return under the updated guidance, assuming all other perquisites have been satisfied.
Masks must be worn on the sideline and at all times except when playing and practicing for five days after return.
Masks must be worn by all players and staff indoors at team facilities. Players and staff are not permitted to eat together. A limit of 15 people applies for weight rooms. Also, even fully vaccinated staff and players are encouraged to avoid public areas including restaurants, bars and social gatherings.
The Tennessee Titans, who can clinch the AFC South with either a win or a Colts loss, added linebacker Jayon Brown and practice squad receiver Cody Hollister, who has played three of the past four games including one start. They later added defensive end Denico Autry, who has eight sacks this season, to bring the Titans’ total to 10, not counting an 11th player out for the season on injured reserve.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Colts, who have rebounded from a 1-4 start to win eight of their past 10. They can clinch one of the seven AFC playoff spots with a win over the Raiders.
Indy’s move comes one day after five players, including right tackle Braden Smith, were added to a rapidly expanding COVID-19 list.
Wentz’s backup is rookie Sam Ehlinger, who has played in three games but has not thrown a pass this season. He was a sixth-round draft pick. Veteran Brett Hundley and James Morgan are on Indy’s practice squad. Hundley has gone 3-6 as a starter during his NFL career.
Indy won Saturday at Arizona despite missing six starters because of COVID-19 and losing two more in the first half. The absences forced the Colts to play with only one of their five regular offensive line starters, Smith.
It’s unclear how many, if any, of those players may return Sunday.