GREEN BAY — The Green Bay Packers rookie class finally got to see their nameplates above their cherry wood lockers on Thursday. Of course, they waited longer than any other rookie class in recent history thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their dressing areas were cordoned off by plexiglass partitions, but they finally found their way to the Lambeau Field home locker room nonetheless.
Meanwhile, it’s going to be awhile before kicker Mason Crosby, tight end Jace Sternberger and defensive lineman Treyvon Hester set foot inside that locker room as the three players were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, joining linebacker Greg Roberts on that list.
Yes, welcome to the NFL in 2020, where the rookies — wearing masks, of course — finally entered the stadium while their veteran teammates continued the process of gaining clearance themselves by testing negative for the novel coronavirus three times in a four-day span.
Rookies had begun their COVID-19 testing process on Sunday and tested Sunday, Monday and Wednesday while spending Tuesday in self-isolation, per NFL rules. The rookies — including quarterback Jordan Love, running back AJ Dillon and safety Vernon Scott, all of whom shared snapshots of their lockers on social media on Thursday morning — who had those three negative tests then underwent traditional physicals on Thursday and more will do so on Friday.
The plexiglass partitions that welcomed them to the locker room are part of the NFL’s rules for reconfiguring each team’s football facility to increase social distancing throughout the building. The Packers’ Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan was approved earlier this week as well.
Veterans underwent their first round of COVID-19 tests on Tuesday and Wednesday, spent their isolation day on their own on Thursday and will be tested again Friday with the hope of being able to take physicals this weekend.
On Monday, then, all those who’ve gotten the OK to enter the facility will be able to begin strength-and-conditioning workouts and light walkthroughs with their teammates and the coaching staff.
That will not include Crosby, Sternberger, Hester or Roberts, and it’s possible other players could test positive between now and then. The team also lost wide receiver Devin Funchess on Wednesday when the veteran wide receiver opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns with family members.
Crosby, Sternberger, Hester and Roberts either tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who did. They now enter the COVID-19 protocol which will keep them from joining their teammates for at least a few days.
According to the league’s coronavirus rules, if any of them merely came in close contact with another person who tested positive — but they themselves did not test positive — they can test again and must self-isolate until they get their results back. They would need a second negative test within 24 hours of the first one and would then have to monitor themselves to make sure they don’t show symptoms of the virus. They also would have to take another type of test daily and get a negative result each time in order to return to the facility.
If one or all of those players tested positive, then there are two courses of action that will decide when they can enter the building.
If the player tested positive but is asymptomatic, he can return to the facility if 10 days have passed since his first positive test — or five days have passed since his first negative test and he receives two consecutive negative test results within those five days. The Packers’ medical staff would also have to clear that player.
If any of the players who tested positive is symptomatic, he could return to Lambeau Field if at least 10 days have passed since his symptoms appeared and at least 72 hours have passed since he last experienced symptoms.
Of course, once all the players are allowed into the facility, the challenges will remain to keep them healthy. Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy acknowledged that much during a video conference with reporters last week.
“It’s all NFL protocols and requirements. A lot of hand sanitizer, a lot of plexiglass all over the building,” Murphy said. “You know, you’re trying to do things that you just never thought you’d have to do when the building was built. How do you keep people separate and distanced? It’s going to be a challenge, but our staff has been working on it over the last few months. It’s really been more the last month or so where we’ve started to get direction from the league and all the protocols that have been negotiated with the players.”
Packers add Lovett
If coach Matt LaFleur really isn’t planning on altering the emphasis of the Packers’ offense, you wouldn’t know it from some of the team’s personnel moves over the offseason. Not only did they draft a big, bruising running back (Dillon) in the second round and a versatile blocking tight end/H-back/fullback in the third round (Josiah Deguara), but the team also added another fullback/tight end Thursday when it claimed ex-Kansas City Chiefs player John Lovett.
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Lovett, who played quarterback in college at Princeton, flashed in training camp last year with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent but suffered a shoulder injury during the preseason opener and spent the year on injured reserve as the Chiefs went on to win Super Bowl LIV.
“He’s a high-intellect guy and he understands the information and knows how to put it into his own way and his own form,” Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce said during training camp last year. “He is a different athlete than a lot of us. That’s the biggest thing making the transition from quarterback to tight end, you didn’t grow up playing that position, so you are already behind the eight ball on that. You can’t just go out there and do tight end stuff. It has to make sense in your mind and it turns into almost your own position and your own way on how you play the game.”