Burkholder: ‘Every team is going to have positive tests’ — How the Chiefs are taking the next step


Athletic trainer Rick Burkholder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Chiefs undrafted free agent wide receiver Alvea Hifo was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Sunday, which likely means he tested positive for the virus.

While it might not be what Chiefs fans want to hear, according to Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance and Infectious Control Officer Rick Burkholder, he won’t be the last Chief to test positive.

“Every team is going to have positive tests and we know that,” Burkholder said on a Zoom call Saturday.

“We are testing positive at 75,000 a day now. We know that. What we hope is we limit our positive tests and when we get a positive test, we act accordingly with the CDC to get those people isolated and get them healthy and safely back to work.”

The NFL has yet to release complete details for what happens when a player tests positive, but according to Burkholder the protocol is extensive.

Whether or not the positive player has symptoms, how long he’s been symptomatic and whether or not he has antibodies could change how long it takes for the player to return to the team.

That may seem vague to the public, but those who are informed of the protocol — including players and coaching staff — feel reassured by what they’ve been told and seen.

“(Players) were like, ‘What if I get somebody else sick? What if I get the coaches sick? What if I can’t play?’” Burkholder said of the players concerns. “So, we have that as part of our protocol. Now, since they’ve come to the building, I’d say the response is pretty positive.”

“They see the cleaning people, they see the testing, they see what we’re going through to make sure they’re alright. They’re wearing their tracers around and they get that.”

Even Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes had his doubts before he went to the facility last week, but as he learned what Burkholder and the rest of the Chiefs’ infectious response team were doing to keep players and their families safe, he felt better.

“You’d be lying to say you had no concern,” Mahomes said on Saturday. “But at the same time, as I’ve been through the facility now last night and a little bit today, and seeing all the protocols and all the safety things that Rick and all these guys have put forth, its really kind of made me feel even better than I thought coming in.”

“That’s kind of put my mind at ease, knowing that I’m going to be in the best possible situation, given the time, to be as safe and healthy as possible.”

It’s going to take a massive adjustment from the Chiefs coaching staff and players to get used to the new rules and protocols, and as evidenced by Hifo, these protocols don’t guarantee that players won’t ever test positive.

But Burkholder says that no team is better at adjusting than the Chiefs, using the 2019 Super Bowl run as an example at how adaptive the team is. He also says that while it won’t be easy, repeating their attitude form last year will get the team through the pandemic.

“Pandemics aren’t fun, crisis aren’t fun, none of that. You find out a lot about trust, loyalty and reliability. If you take those three words and you go back to the 2019 season, that got us through and that will also get us through this pandemic.”

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