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The NFL has released its updated plan for safely returning players to club facilities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the protocols released Monday were plans to remodel locker rooms to allow players to remain six feet apart, while masks must be worn unless they interfere with “athletic activities,” per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network:
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
Among the highlights here:
– Locker rooms reconfigured to permit people being 6 feet apart
– Meetings must be conducted virtually when possible
– Helmets, shoulder pads, etc. disinfected after each game
– Masks required except when interfering with “athletic activities” https://t.co/AvNO7Si2Gt
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
No dates set yet and no minicamps expected, but the NFL and NFLPA are discussing the possibility of certain players — such as rookies, and veterans who changed teams and need physicals — returning to club facilities on a limited basis before June 26, per sources.
Ralph Vacchiano of SNY added the new proposed mandates “call for workouts of no more than 15 players at a time, staggered player appointments and meetings either held virtually or outdoors. Everyone in the building must wear a mask, and they’d have to wear it for outdoor meetings, too.”
He added Monday’s announcement was as notable for what it didn’t mention as what it did, however:
Ralph Vacchiano @RVacchianoSNY
Also, it should be noted that the memo says “we should expect that these protocols will change as medical and scientific knowledge of the disease continues to grow.”
It’s the biggest problem sports are facing in plotting returns: The uncertainty. COVID-19 is a moving target.
The league will also be splitting team personnel into three tiers, with varying levels of access to restricted areas, per Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports:
- Tier 1: “Players, coaches, athletic trainers, team physicians, head strength and conditioning coaches, head equipment managers.”
- Tier 2: “Club facility staff, additional coaches and strength and conditioning coaches, additional trainers and equipment managers, ownership, general managers, football operations staff, security personnel, etc.”
- Tier 3: “Operational personnel, in-house media and broadcast personnel, field manager, additional stadium and security personnel.”
Tier 1 will be limited to 60 people on top of the total number of players. Tier 2 will have some access to restricted areas, though their time and contact with Tier 1 personnel will be limited. Tier 3 personnel will only be given access to restricted areas when Tier 1 and 2 personnel aren’t present.
The reality of the coronavirus, and the fear of another outbreak in the fall or winter, will make any resumption of NFL play more complicated. The rules and regulations regarding a return to team facilities make that much clear. It’s the new reality in professional sports, at least until a vaccine is developed.