Sports

Bucs’ Arians: More frequent testing ‘won’t help’

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Sunday that despite his team’s recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, he believes the NFL’s proposition of testing vaccinated players every seven days instead of every 14 days “won’t help at all.”

The NFL proposed this change in testing cadence during a media briefing Thursday and is awaiting a response from the NFLPA.

“I don’t think it would help at all,” said Arians, whose team had some of the league’s lowest numbers last season but currently has four players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. “I was fine with the other protocols. If your team is 100% vaccinated, I don’t know why you have to test at all.”

Arians also expressed concern over mild symptoms keeping players out for a longer period of time due to NFL rules. All four of Tampa Bay’s players who have tested positive — defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, kicker Ryan Succop and offensive linemen Nick Leverett and Earl Watford — are fully vaccinated, sources told ESPN.

“The virus issue is concerning because everybody has very, very mild symptoms. Things that you wouldn’t miss a day of work with in your life. But now you’re out 10 days,” Arians said. “So that’s got me concerned … that it can be transmitted that easily. If I sneeze and I test positive — that’s the biggest concern for me right now.”

While those who are asymptomatic and are vaccinated need only two negative tests 24 hours apart to return to action, those who experience mild symptoms must wait a mandatory 10 days and complete a three-day progressive exercise protocol under the team medical staff before return to full participation.

Arians still expects all four players to return in time for the NFL Kickoff Game on Sept. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys. But he’s concerned about additional positive tests that could pop up given Florida’s status as one of the nation’s hot spots for cases.

“Ten days is still the maximum so we’ll have everybody back, but now these four days off and retesting now with the new protocol, who knows?” Arians said.

Last season, just four starters — running back Ronald Jones, left tackle Donovan Smith, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett and inside linebacker Devin White — missed a combined six games between the regular season and postseason due to being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That was a major reason they won the Super Bowl.

While Arians enacted strict rules for players traveling to the third preseason game at the Houston Texans, including no family visits to the team hotel and no restaurants, he won’t be doing that while the players are at home — at least for now. The NFL allows for vaccinated individuals to go out to restaurants open to the public while traveling, but not those who have been unvaccinated; they must wear masks indoors at the facility and in crowds.

However, the NFL also gives teams the authority to implement stricter protocols in cities experiencing outbreaks.

“No, that will be a personal thing,” Arians said. “Our guys are very, very smart on who to be with, where to be and how to handle themselves so whether or not they go to restaurants and those types of things — we’ll talk about that at a later date.”

The Tennessee Titans — also dealing with a cluster — have implemented mandatory masking indoors, but as of right now, Arians said that won’t be something he’s mandating, but they will implement changes.

“It’s something we’ll talk about as a team,” Arians said. “We’ll definitely go back to last year’s meetings where we’re all spread out. Because our facility’s so good, we can do that. That’s the biggest thing. As far as masks — until I’m ready to wear one, I won’t require anybody else to wear one.

“When we reconvene as the Bucs in a few days — our guys are very, very aware of the situation and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that it doesn’t affect our team.”

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