As workouts and training camps ensue, the NFL and NFL Players Association have organized an emergency response plan for COVID-19, as well as protocol for game-days. The documents outlining said details were distributed to clubs on Wednesday night. Many organizations, including the NFL, are trying to best navigate this new season while keeping fans and participants safe.
What Are the Specifications?
One of the highlights includes not allowing anyone with a body temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher to enter the premises on game days. This is to ensure that anyone who may test positive for COVID-19 does not endanger anyone else attending the game.
As already mentioned in weeks prior, masks are “encouraged” but not mandatory for athletes or coaches on the sidelines. Only officials, chain/ball crews, and medical staff are required to wear masks.
It has been clarified that coaches and players who do not regularly play or need players’ attention should wear masks at all times. The NFL will be making disposable masks readily available at all games.
Social distancing protocol is also mandated in the bench area, which requires at least six feet between individuals at all times. The NFL is also not allowing personal items to be shared, as this has been a common occurrence.
Regarding other individuals with field access, teams have to send the NFL a list of these individuals three days before the first preseason game. This list should include stadium operations, field crews, league/club game day assistance, club staff, network, and any media.
They are required to wear masks throughout the entirety of the day, as well as remain outside of a yellow dotted line that will be added to stadiums in order to accommodate health guidelines. The yellow line will run between the 30-yard lines and will be placed at least 10 feet behind the bench area.
Any person with field access who is questioned amid COVID-19 concerns and suggests they may have the virus will not be allowed to enter the stadium. This undoubtedly includes individuals who record a temperature of 100.4 or above.
In addition to the latter guidelines, home teams are required to stay at hotels the night before games. They are also required to travel on a bus to the stadium.
Facility disinfecting policies are also highlighted in the document. Two teams will not be allowed to enter the stadium together as their arrival times will be staggered.
What Happens After the Game?
In order to protect the health and safety of players, they will not be allowed to be within six feet of each after the game, respecting social distancing guidelines. This has brought a lot of controversy as exchanging jerseys, a post-game tradition for some players, will no longer be possible. Athletes expressed their annoyance at the new rule claiming it is unreasonable to allow athletes to play a contact sport for hours, but not interact for minutes after the fact.
Ultimately, the sports industry has experienced one of the greatest setbacks of all time because of coronavirus. Although this season might not be traditional, it could be a stepping stone for a new era of sports.
It’s important to highlight that the NFL has never been through an infectious illness outbreak. This does not excuse the fact they should have been prepared, but ultimately, many of these changes due to COVID-19 will be a game of trial and error.