Falcons shut down facility after 2nd positive COVID-19 test
NFL club expects to practice Friday, scheduled to play Vikings on Sunday
The Atlanta Falcons shut their facility Thursday following one new positive test for COVID-19. The team remains scheduled to play at Minnesota on Sunday.
Defensive tackle Marlon Davidson was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list this week, and the addition of a second unidentified person caused the Falcons to act out of caution. All team activity will be done virtually.
A team spokesman said the second person was not a player. The spokesman added that, barring any changes, the Falcons are expected to be back at their facility on Friday.
The Falcons' decision to shut their facility follows outbreaks with the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots.
"This decision was made in consultation with the NFL and medical officials," the team said in a statement. "The health and safety of our team is our highest priority."
The Falcons (0-5) fired coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff last Sunday night, and Raheem Morris was named interim coach.
"Right now, in this new COVID world, there's a lot of things that come up in that world every single day," Morris said Tuesday. "You just have to deal with that all the time."
Davidson was the second Atlanta player to be placed on the COVID 19/reserve list in-season. Rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell missed two games before returning for last week's home loss to Carolina.
Protocols were increased at the Falcons' practice Wednesday.
"We definitely had different meetings today, completely virtual," quarterback Matt Ryan said after practice. "We were all in separate rooms and in our own space. Even in practice, (shields) on our helmets. I think we are doing everything we can to keep it at bay and do the best we can under the guidelines we've been given."
The NFL is attempting to play a full schedule amid the pandemic without teams isolated in a bubble as other sports have done to protect players and staff from the virus. No games were affected through the first three weeks of the season, but the schedules of nine teams have since been disrupted.
Tennessee had the most serious outbreak with 24 positive tests, including 13 players.
League implementing new protocols
The league said this week it will begin PCR testing for COVID-19 on game days beginning Sunday. The use of masks in walk-throughs is now mandatory, and only play-callers will be permitted to wear face shields in lieu of masks or gaiters on the sideline.
The updated protocols sent to teams Monday night also require anyone identified as a "high risk" close contact to be isolated and not permitted to return to the team's facility for at least five days.
Falcons safety Ricardo Allen said the team was watching closely to ensure players followed protocols Wednesday.
"I think everybody even has the new little mask thing on every helmet," he said. "They make sure that they have heightened everything. They make sure that they know everyone is aware even if they catch you with your mask down a little bit, they'll make sure you move it up."
The Falcons had seven players test positive during training camp. All later returned.