NFL provides teams with protocols for players' eventual return to facilities
The NFL has provided teams with a set of protocols by which players will return to teams' facilities, although it remains unclear that will occur.
The protocols, distributed to teams in a memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell dated Sunday, include measures such as the mandatory use of masks, physical distancing inside locker rooms and advisories for meetings to be held remotely or outdoors.
Key issues such as how often players will be tested for the novel coronavirus and what would be done if a player tests positive are not addressed, and remain under discussion between the league and NFL Players Association.
"While these protocols have been carefully developed and are based on the most current information from leading experts, no set of protocols can eliminate the risk of contracting Covid-19, nor ensure that the disease itself will be mild," Goodell wrote. "And we should expect that these protocols will change as medical and scientific knowledge of the disease continues to grow. But we believe, along with the NFLPA, that these protocols offer a sound basis for bringing players back into the facilities and moving forward with our planning for the 2020 season."
According to the memo, each NFL team must develop an Infectious Disease Emergency Response Plan. The memo says that a team's practice and playing fields, sidelines, locker rooms, training rooms and medical exam rooms, eating areas and weight rooms are restricted areas accessible only by certain team employees. Teams are to maintain separate entrances for the exclusive use of players and certain team employees.
Players and others are to be screened, with questions asked about symptoms, before entering teams' facilities. Locker rooms are to be set up to keep players six feet apart. Meetings with more than 20 participants must be conducted virtually unless physical distancing can be adhered to; in-person meetings should be held outdoors. Weight rooms must be in a well-ventilated area of the facility or outdoors; equipment is to be disinfected after each person's workout.
All players and staffers must wear masks inside the facility. Teams are subject to unannounced inspections by the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA to monitor compliance, according to the protocols, which also provide instructions for the mandatory education of certain personnel about the virus.
The NFL has allowed teams to reopen their facilities and has permitted coaches to return. To this point, only players undergoing medical treatment or rehabilitating from injuries have been permitted to return. Teams have been conducting their offseason programs for players remotely. The league is leaving open the possibility of some players being allowed back into teams' facilities on a limited basis later this month. But the NFLPA does not appear inclined to agree to permit players to return before the June 26 conclusion of teams' offseason programs.
The league has told all teams to conduct their training camps, scheduled to open next month, at their own facilities, rather than traveling to a college campus or another location. The NFL also prohibited teams from holding joint practices during training camp.
"We will also provide further information and protocols relating to testing and treatment of persons who test positive or otherwise show symptoms of the virus, team travel, and other matters," Goodell wrote in the memo.