Despite coach Matt Nagy harping on the importance of wearing masks and the NFL ratcheting up its coronavirus protocols with each passing week, it was foolish to believe the Bears could get through the regular season without at least one positive test.
On Saturday, they put practice-squad offensive tackle Badara Traore, an undrafted rookie from LSU, on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list.
The question now becomes: Will he be the only one? Every other Bear tested negative, which is a good sign, but it doesn’t end the concern. Practice-squad players weren’t allowed on the sideline during the game against the Buccaneers on Thursday night, but it’s possible that Traore was contagious before then.
The Bears test their players every morning — except for game days — in a trailer inside the Halas Hall parking lot. Results of their standard tests come back late that night or early the next morning. The Bears perform contact tracing with the help of electronic bracelets players wear inside Halas Hall that track close interactions.
According to its labor agreement, NFL teams can’t officially confirm that a player tested positive, other than to put him on the list, which in rare cases is also used for those who’ve been in close contact with infected people.
The schedule helps the Bears’ hopes of avoiding an outbreak — or a potential problem on game day. They didn’t have full-team activities scheduled for Friday, Saturday or Sunday and don’t play again until Oct. 18 on the road against the Panthers.
The Titans proved positive tests can be staggered over time. They’ve had 23 since Sept. 24, with the most recent coming Thursday. They finally returned to their practice facility Saturday.
The Falcons, on the other hand, had no other players fall ill after first-round pick A.J. Terrell tested positive on the eve of their Sept. 27 game against the Bears.
Nagy mandates that players wear masks inside Halas Hall but not during outdoor practices. Coaches wear masks in both cases.
The Titans’ outbreak “wakes you up,” Nagy said last week.
“I think it just reiterates here the importance of all of us always having the masks on,” Nagy said. “When you really think about it, it’s really not that hard to put a mask on.”
The Bears had one scare earlier, but it lasted about eight hours. In the early hours of Aug. 23, Nagy was awakened by a call saying nine players had tested positive. By mid-morning, though, it was clear the NFL had a testing error. BioReference Laboratories, the NFL’s testing company, reported 77 positive tests across 11 teams. They were soon proved to be false positives, and the lab later said contamination in one of its labs caused the mistake.