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Jets’ Positive Coronavirus Test Turns Out to Be False Result

The Jets announced on Friday morning that one of their players had tested positive for the coronavirus, sending a new shudder through the N.F.L., which is facing an outbreak that has affected at least three teams in recent weeks. But in the evening, the team said that the result was a false positive and that everyone on the team had tested negative, clearing the way for the Jets to play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, as planned.

The conflicting results were a reminder of how tricky it has been for the league to navigate its season during a pandemic. As if playing the game Whack-a-Mole, the league has had to address issues popping up on and off the field across the country, including players’ and coaches’ ignoring safety protocols.

On Friday, the league felt compelled to remind teams that players and coaches would now face a 15-yard penalty if they approached a game official without wearing a mask.

After the false positive test, the Jets called off the team’s workout, and said that all players had been sent home from the team’s New Jersey training facility as a precaution. For most of Friday, the positive result threw into question whether the Jets would be able to play the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday and created a new headache for the N.F.L., which is already scrambling to adjust for outbreaks on two other teams.

Positive tests on the Patriots, Titans and other teams have deepened the challenge the league faces as it tries to complete a full schedule of games. On Thursday, the league postponed two more games, the latest in a series of cascading readjustments to its complicated matrix of a schedule in the wake of virus outbreaks involving the Tennessee Titans and the New England Patriots.

At the same time, the league is moving to tighten its oversight of teams, and threatening to punish organizations that do not abide by evolving virus protocols. The reminder to teams warning of penalties if their players and coaches approach referees came after the N.F.L. said it would use video surveillance to ensure that team employees were wearing proper protective equipment at team facilities.

The league also is investigating whether the Titans violated league rules by working out after the club’s facility was closed because of the outbreak in the locker room. If the team is found to be in violation, it could face penalties, including fines and the loss of draft picks. Tennessee could even be forced to forfeit a game.

On Thursday, the league announced that the Titans — who have had the league’s worst outbreak, with nearly two dozen players, coaches and staff members testing positive — would play the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Eastern, instead of on Sunday. But even that plan was contingent on the team’s not reporting any new positives. The Titans reported two additional positive tests in their organization on Thursday.

If Tennessee and Buffalo play on Tuesday, the Bills’ next game, against the Kansas City Chiefs, would be moved back three days from Thursday, Oct. 15.

The league had already postponed the Titans’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, scheduled for this past Sunday, by three weeks because of the Titans’ outbreak.

The league also on Thursday moved the Patriots-Denver Broncos game, scheduled for Sunday, to 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday, after Stephon Gilmore, New England’s star cornerback, was reported to have tested positive.

Last week, the Patriots’ Sunday game was moved to Monday because the team’s quarterback, Cam Newton, had tested positive.

Unlike the N.B.A., the W.N.B.A. and several other leagues, the N.F.L. — which had much bigger rosters and coaching staffs than most leagues — chose not to resume its season in a restricted environment like the so-called bubbles used in basketball.

Instead, protocols were put in place to enforce physical distancing and other safety measures while the players and the team’s staff members were together. But at the end of each day, all team personnel are allowed to return home, increasing their chances of being exposed to the virus.

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