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Packers practice after resolving COVID-19 false-positive testing issue

Jim Owczarski
Packers News

GREEN BAY - As the National Football League has seen its positive COVID-19 testing rate decline steadily since the beginning of training camp, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Sunday that about “10-11” teams around the league were told Saturday that they had a rash of positive tests coming out of a lab based in New Jersey.

The Green Bay Packers were one of those teams, with several players testing positive. Rapid tests were administered and came back negative Sunday, and head coach Matt LaFleur and director of security Doug Collins reviewed the data and determined the team could indeed practice safely.

When they took to Ray Nitschke Field, the players who did not participate were not out for reasons related to COVID-19.

Packers coach Matt LaFleur determined it was safe to hold practice Sunday after it was deemed there were several false positive COVID tests Saturday.

"That definitely came into play for us (Sunday) morning, and you know, we only had a couple guys that was affecting, so we felt like we could still go out there and run practice," LaFleur said. "But it certainly crossed our mind.

“And the other thing is, we never want to put our guys at risk. One practice isn't worth it if we really, truly felt like this was a serious problem within our football team in terms of a bunch of guys testing positive. So, you know, if we ever got into that situation where we thought it was a real thing, definitely cancel the practice."

The Packers have no players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Earlier Sunday, the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears postponed their practice sessions and Minnesota and Buffalo held players out of their practices. The New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers were also among the teams impacted.

The Vikings, who will host Green Bay in the season opener Sept. 13, had eight players, one coach and three staffers test presumptive positive, according to head coach Mike Zimmer.

"Honestly for us, it’s probably good that it happened now because we were able to adjust and adapt and figure out the kinds of things that would happen if it did happen during the season and what we would do from there," Zimmer told reporters in Minneapolis.

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The Jets said they had 10 positive tests while the Bears revealed nine players/staff tested positive.

The Packers did not release specific numbers regarding the positive tests they had. It appeared all coaches were on the field, along with the players.

"Saturday's daily COVID testing returned several positive tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey," the NFL said in a statement. "We are working with our testing partner, BioReference, to investigate these results, while the clubs work to confirm or rule out the positive tests. Clubs are taking immediate precautionary measures as outlined in the NFL-NFLPA's health and safety protocols to include contact tracing, isolation of individuals and temporarily adjusting the schedule, where appropriate. The other laboratories used for NFL testing have not had similar results."

The Packers have their tests run through the lab in New Jersey.

“Yeah, it’s just one of those things where you do the Rapid test as well,” LaFleur said of his team’s response to the lab issues. “And just circumstances around it with it affecting 10 other teams or 11 teams or whatever it was, we felt that it was a pretty strong case that may have been the issue (Sunday).”

According to Sports Illustrated, 10 players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in the last 16 days with 111 players total having appeared on the list since the return to action in late July.

Contact Jim Owczarski at jowczarski@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @JimOwczarski or Facebook at facebook.com/JOwczarski.