The NFL sent out a memo to their teams on Sunday regarding the rules and guidelines for the return to football during the COVID-19 pandemic, which at the earliest will likely happen when training camps open at the end of July.
Each team will need to comply to the new guidelines before opening up, and every organization has a lot on its plate in terms of preparations that need to be made before entire staffs and rosters return for the 2020 season.
The plan is long, detailed and includes specific protocols the teams must follow, including how far apart lockers can be, how meals can be served and which people can enter through which parts of the facility. It seems each "football essential" employee will have to undergo daily testing under the "applicable protocol" to enter the building.
You can read the entire document here, via NFL.com reporter Albert Breer, but below are some of the highlights:
** Each team must have an Infectious Disease Emergency Response Plan that is approved by NFL, NFPA and Infection Control for Sports.
** Anyone who enters the practice facility will be designated into a tier, with three separate tiers. Some examples of who will be included in each tier:
Tier 1: Players and personnel who must have direct access to players such as coaches, athletic trainers, physicians, strength coaches,
Tier 2: Other essential personnel who may need access to players such as general managers, Football Personnel, Ownership Representatives, lower-level coaches
Tier 3: Basically everyone else that works at the facility. Tier 3 must try to avoid contact with anyone in Tier 1 and Tier 2, and can only access restricted areas when Tier 1 or Tier 2 people are not present. Of note, this tier includes in-house media, but there is no mention of general media in any of the tiers.
** Restricted areas that will be designated by tiers: practice fields and sidelines, stadium field and sidelines, locker room, training rooms, medical rooms, meeting rooms, players lounges and weight rooms
** There must be separate entrances for Tier 1 and Tier 2 people.
** Six-feet of distancing inside facility, including locker rooms, with lockers to be six-feet apart when possible.
** Masks at all times inside the building, or “unless a mask cannot be worn by players due to the interference with performance of athletic activities” (so basically when they are practicing and working out).
** No more than 15 players working out in the weight room at a time
** Meetings are held virtually when possible. Meeting that can’t be held virtually should be held outdoors while everyone is wearing masks and sitting apart from each other. No meeting can be held where social distancing isn’t practiced.
** No sharing water bottles or sports drinks. All bottles must be single use. No sharing towels. No sharing clothes.
** All equipment is cleaned after every practice and game
** Personnel items — phones, keys, etc — must be washed when entering the facility
** Meals from the team cafeterias must be in takeout form and individually wrapped. No Buffett styles
** Unannounced inspections by NFL
** Two-week supply of PPE equipment — masks, gloves, etc.
Some of the above rules will certainly require creativity, including the six-feet distancing of nearly all aspects of the facility. How teams redesign and reconfigure locker rooms, gyms, and other aspects of their respective buildings will be interesting to observe.
You can follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org!