Dez Bryant waited three years to have a crack at the Cowboys after they released him in 2017. But moments before facing Dallas on Tuesday night, the Ravens receiver was notified he had tested positive for COVID-19 and then pulled from warmups.
The NFL decided to move forward with the start of the game anyway — a decision that puzzled many observers, given his close proximity with teammates.
“Contact tracing was conducted from yesterday and today using the contact tracing device and the standard interviews,” NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said, via Pro Football Talk. “There were no high-risk contacts identified.”
“This is a scenario that had been contemplated during the development of the protocols and one the league, clubs and NFLPA planned for,” McCarty added. “The protocols worked.”
Bryant wrote on social media that the sequence of the events had convinced him he didn't want to play anymore in 2020. It convinced plenty of others that the NFL's approach to the pandemic was a charade.
"Yea I’m going to go ahead and call it a quit (sic) for the rest of the season," Bryant said in a Twitter post. "I can’t deal with this."
Yea I’m going to go ahead and call it a quit for the rest of the season... I can’t deal with this— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) December 9, 2020
The NFL conducts contact tracing following any positive test. Those who are deemed high risk of having being infected are then quarantined, regardless of whether they have tested positive themselves.
After Ravens players warmed up with Bryant on Tuesday and presumably spent time around him this week, there was no game delay. The league reportedly used tracking data from devices players wore to determine no high-risk contact occured. It also reportedly conducted interviews with people on the field.
One more note: The NFL did its usual contact tracing, including Kinexon tracking data and interviews, and did not determine any high-risk close contacts. Same procedures as any other positive test. Prepared to pull those if identified, but none were identified. So, only Dez out.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 9, 2020
Got an answer as to why Dez Bryant was allowed to warm up. Per an NFL source, his inconclusive test did not come back until after he had already taken the field. As soon as the test did come back, he was pulled and given a point of care PCR test that returned positive.— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 9, 2020
That hasn't convinced everyone the NFL is doing the right thing. The Ravens have dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak for weeks; they're playing Tuesday night rather than Sunday because of those prior positive tests. Even the national Fox broadcast sounded confused about the situation, and many people on social media were critical of the league.
When images purportedly showing Bryant hugging former Cowboys teammates emerged, the outcry about the game being played grew louder.
But brief interactions are not considered problematic, according to NFL protocol, and thus were not sufficient for the game to be postponed in the eyes of league officials.
Seeing a lot of questions about close contacts, especially given photos of Dez Bryant hugging and interacting with Cowboys people before the game. Here's how "close contact" is defined in the NFL/NFLPA policy. Note that it does not include "brief interactions." pic.twitter.com/EMqK7NQNXT— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) December 9, 2020