The NFL continued to grapple with coronavirus-related issues Tuesday as John Elway and another Denver Broncos executive tested positive and the Dallas Cowboys placed quarterback Andy Dalton on their covid-19 reserve list.
The league also announced several new game-day measures, including a renewed call for mask-wearing by players and additional distancing provisions on the sideline, in reaction to the positive test results by Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers players from Sunday’s game-day testing.
Elway and Joe Ellis, Denver’s president and chief executive officer, were told Tuesday morning that they’d tested positive, the team said in a written statement.
“Other than mild symptoms, both Joe and John are doing well,” the team said in its statement. “They will continue to work from home in self-isolation and participate in virtual meetings while their health is monitored.”
Elway, 60, serves as the Broncos’ president of football operations and general manager. He won two Super Bowl titles with the team as its Hall of Fame quarterback, then was the roster architect of the Broncos’ Super Bowl triumph in the 2015 season with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
The Broncos said that Elway left the team’s training facility Monday morning “after experiencing minor symptoms that he quickly brought to the attention of our medical staff.” The team said that Ellis, 61, was “not feeling 100 percent” Sunday morning, reported his symptoms to the Broncos’ medical staff and watched that day’s game from home.
“Based on a review of contact tracing data with the league, we are confident these cases originated independently outside team facilities,” the Broncos said, adding that no players or coaches were identified as having been close contacts of Elway or Ellis.
Broncos offensive lineman Graham Glasgow reportedly tested positive last week, and the team canceled its practice Friday. Three Broncos assistant coaches have been isolated under the league’s protocols in recent weeks.
“It’s certainly a concerning situation for us,” Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, “and we’ve been in extremely detailed and regular contact with the Broncos organization. . . . At this point we feel comfortable that there’s not ongoing transmission among the players and the day-to-day operations. But it’s something that we’re going to have to continue to monitor very carefully.”
Dalton’s placement on the Cowboys’ covid-19 reserve list was included on the NFL’s official daily transactions wires. That list is for players who test positive for the coronavirus and those determined to have been exposed. Dalton had missed last week’s game with a concussion. The Cowboys could give rookie Ben DiNucci a second straight start or could turn to practice-squad quarterback Cooper Rush for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The NFL told teams in a memo Tuesday that it continues to “strongly recommend” that players wear masks while on the sideline during games. Coaches and team staffers are required to wear masks while on the sideline, but that requirement does not extend to players except in certain cities under applicable state and local guidelines. The NFL said Tuesday that players are required to wear masks for any interactions between teams before and after games.
“What we are trying to convey and to say is, ‘Masks can prevent you from becoming a high-risk contact,’ ” Sills said. “This is our goal. So it’s in everybody’s best interest to wear a mask for their protection and to reduce exposure.”
The NFL also announced that it will expand each team’s bench area on the sideline during games to promote distancing measures. That area now will extend to the 20-yard line on each end of the field.
Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey announced Monday that he’d tested positive for the coronavirus. Packers running back A.J. Dillon reportedly also tested positive in the results returned Monday from Sunday’s testing.
The Ravens placed seven players (linebackers Tyus Bowser, L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison, Matthew Judon and Patrick Queen, defensive back DeShon Elliott and practice-squad defensive back Terrell Bonds) on their covid-19 reserve list, apparently as high-risk close contacts, who are now on five-day quarantines. Those quarantines would expire in time for those players to be available to play in Sunday’s game at Indianapolis. The Packers play Thursday night against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., and will be without running back Jamaal Williams and linebacker Kamal Martin, who reportedly were classified as high-risk close contacts, in addition to Dillon. The NFL said Tuesday that it expects the Packers-49ers game to be played as scheduled.
The league wrote in Tuesday’s memo that “our medical experts have concluded that if masks were worn by players in both examples, the number of individuals that would have been designated as ‘High Risk Close Contacts’ would have been significantly reduced.”