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Coronavirus pandemic, positive tests keep NFL, league’s teams on their toes

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, right, throws during the second half with pressure from the Chiefs on Oct. 11 in Kansas City, Mo. The Raiders won 40-32. (AP file photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For Jeffery Simmons, being sidelined by COVID-19 and having to watch his Tennessee teammates beat Buffalo without him hurt.

He sat on his couch and tweeted almost a play by play in his desire to get back to work.

“I felt more and more anxious that I really wanted to be on that field, and I was like, ‘This can’t be real that I’m really missing this game,'” said Simmons, who missed only one game and returned to work two days after the Titans’ 42-16 win over Buffalo on Oct. 13.

The NFL and the players association are trying to play this season during the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 in the United States, with some survivors left dealing with issues months after infection: fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint paints, fuzzy thinking and organ dysfunction.

Keeping teams healthy enough for games is why the league and its players association have a lengthy list of guidelines, including daily testing, trying to do just that.

Raiders offensive tackle Trent Brown protects a gap in the offensive line during a game against the Denver Broncos in Oakland, Calif., on Sept. 9, 2019. The Las Vegas Raiders sent all five starting offensive linemen home as part of coronavirus contact tracing after Brown, the starting right tackle, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list with a positive test. The Raiders held practice on Wednesday without their starting five as they prepare for Sunday’s home game against Tampa Bay. (AP file photo)

Yet the league keeps having to revamp schedules starting with Tennessee and the first COVID-19 outbreak during the season, followed quickly by several positive results in New England. Positive tests have shut down the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers at least briefly. Chicago has had a positive test.

Now the Raiders’ entire offensive line is on the reserve/ COVID-19 list after right tackle Trent Brown’s positive test with the rest counted as close contacts, and the NFL moved their game with Tampa Bay from prime time to Sunday afternoon.

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, notes NFL players have an advantage dealing with COVID-19.

One, the fact that they are extraordinarily fit and healthy and therefore may indeed have fewer of these complications,” Schaffner said. “And the other is just as with their getting banged-up on the weekends, they’re motivated to get back to work.”

For Simmons, losing his sense of taste and smell were his worst symptoms. Upset stomachs, bad headaches, chills, coughing, diarrhea and sore throats are among the issues reported by other players and coaches testing positive for COVID-19 after clearing the medical testing to return to work.

Being sidelined and not able to work was a much bigger issue than being sick. Zoom meetings are nice, but there’s no way to play virtually on game day.

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton didn’t want to talk about any symptoms he had after testing positive. He missed a loss at Kansas City pushed back a day. Further positive tests rescheduled the Patriots’ game with Denver by a week.

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