The Chiefs will not have to isolate any players on their roster, despite Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore testing positive for COVID-19 a day after playing the Chiefs.
That includes quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who could be seen interacting with Gilmore after the game, a move he called "a mental lapse" that derived from an attempt to show sportsmanship.
Players for both teams wore contact tracers during the game, as they do every week, which informed the Chiefs whether anyone on their side had enough prolonged contact with Gilmore to prompt quarantine. They did not, coach Andy Reid said.
Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to the NFL Network. In addition to playing every defensive snap, he greeted Mahomes after the game, the two players embracing for a one-armed hug.
"Obviously I had a little lapse at the end of the game trying to show respect to a great football player who I hope is getting better very quickly," Mahomes said Wednesday. "I'll try to keep away from that and try not to do it again."
Before the season, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to COVID-19 protocols that forbid teams from engaging in postgame interactions within six feet of one another.
The interaction between Mahomes and Gilmore remained brief. The CDC determines a close contact for COVID-19 as being within six feet of someone infected with the virus for at least 15 minutes.
The two teams played Monday, a day later than originally scheduled, because players from both teams had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the weekend - Patriots starting quarterback Cam Newton and Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu.
This week's opponent has been affected, too. The Raiders are scheduled to travel to Arrowhead on Sunday, and one unidentified Raiders player has tested positive for COVID-19, according to ESPN.
At Chiefs practice Wednesday, all players wore masks during stretching.
Mahomes said he did not hear from the NFL or the NFLPA personally about this week's postgame exchange with Gilmore, but Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder spoke to the league and then to the team, reinforcing the importance of following COVID-19 protocols. Burkholder, also the team's vice president of sports medicine and performance, has been in charge of the team's infectious disease response.
"Rick reminded guys after the game, and he also reminded guys today in our meetings - the protocols and the different stuff we have to do in the building and during the games," Mahomes said. "I think as long as we listen to those protocols, we can keep from hopefully having any outbreaks or anything like that. Keep it to an isolated incident and hopefully be able to go out there and play the sport we love every single day."
After learning Ta'amu tested positive, Mahomes said he slept in a different bedroom than his fiancee, who is pregnant, as an extra precaution.
The Chiefs have put measures in place at their facility designed to prevent one positive test from prompting an outbreak, Reid said. That includes social distancing during team and positional group meetings, even if it requires some players to attend those meetings virtually while others attend in person. If players spend too much time within six feet of one another anywhere in the facility, the contact tracer will alert Burkholder.
"We try to utilize everything here," Reid said. "We've eliminated the cafeteria to where that's a room for the players. For the offensive line, we've utilized the indoor facility. After the meetings, it looks like an Indy crew coming through and cleaning up, changing the tires - putting tables away, the chairs away and everything else. That's what we're doing."
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