NFL Facing Fears of False Positive COVID-19 Tests

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford recently landed on the Reserve/COVID list due to a "false positive" test. Weeks later, the NFL is dealing with similar issues across the entire league. A rash of false positives recently came to light, all of which came from the same laboratory.

According to Albert Breer of The MMQB, several NFL teams received false positives from one of the testing labs that the league uses. The New England Patriots, New York Jets, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns were all among the teams that faced issues heading into the weekend. The number of teams only increased on Sunday as more information surfaced and included organizations such as the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Breer said that the players took rapid tests on Sunday morning and all passed.

"Saturday's daily COVID testing returned several positive tests from each of the clubs serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey," the league 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."

With the number of false positives on Saturday, NFL teams responded by altering their training camp schedules. Several postponed their practice schedules or closed down their facilities. This includes the Browns, but the Ohio-based franchise did ultimately reopen the building after retesting those that tested positive. The Bears, on the other hand, moved 9 a.m. local time practice to the afternoon to retest players and coaches.


"The NFL works with a company, BioReference, and the results are sent to different labs to process them," NFL insider Ian Rapoport said. "Several teams received several positive results, all from the same lab in New Jersey. So what the NFL has now done is dig deeper, go back, retest some of these results and see which of these positives were actually real positives."

Before the string of positive tests, the league had conducted more than 100,000 coronavirus tests since the beginning of training camp. They saw a positivity rate that was a fraction of 1%, which actually dropped. However, the "sudden flood" of positive tests from different organizations drew significant attention. Having the results come from the same lab in New Jersey "raised a red flag."