As the scheduled start of NFL training camps draws closer, the league and the players’ union on Friday unveiled some of the steps they’re taking to educate players and team personnel about how the league plans to operate during the coronavirus pandemic.
Assuming there is a season and teams travel to and from different cities to play games, many new regulations will be in place for players and team personnel on the road. The league will mandate that team buses cannot be more than 50% full, that there must be at least one open seat between passengers on team planes, that everyone will get his or her own hotel room on the road and that all players and team personnel must wear face coverings while on the road.
Teams and players also are being told that they will not be allowed to leave their hotel rooms to eat in or otherwise use restaurants that are open to the public. (They will be allowed to use room service and contactless food-delivery services.)
They might not make use of public or private transportation to or in other cities — meaning everyone has to travel on the team plane and/or bus. While at the hotel, players and team personnel may not be visited in their rooms by anyone who’s not in their traveling party, and no one in the traveling party may use shared hotel facilities such as pools or gyms unless they have been disinfected and are being used only by the traveling party.
These guidelines were released Friday as part of a long document detailing coronavirus-related procedures that will govern league operations in training camp and throughout the season. And while they aren’t complete — for example, the document says testing protocols are still being negotiated by the league and union — they are detailed and interesting in several ways that will affect the daily lives of players and other team employees.
Among other things, the document includes:
Instructions for behavior while at team facilities, including wearing a mask, adhering to social distance protocols and not sharing towels, water bottles, food or clothing.
BioReference Laboratories will handle all collection and analysis of tests, which will include nasal swab tests for the virus as well as blood tests for antibodies.
What to do if you have symptoms (isolate, go home and quarantine immediately).
What to do if you have contact with someone who has symptoms of or tests positive for COVID-19.
Contact tracing procedures, including Kinexon proximity recording devices that must be worn by all team personnel while at the facility and will be used to identify in-game close contacts. For example, if a player tests positive, teams can identify every player, coach or other team employee who had close contact with him. The document also defines “close contact” as it pertains to the coronavirus.
Procedures for returning to the facility and for playing after testing positive, including an additional cardiac screening for players who have tested positive for the virus and recovered or who have tested positive for the antibodies.
The introduction to the document says, “Risk cannot be eliminated — must reduce exposure. Keeping the team environment safe is everyone’s responsibility. Consistent protocol compliance minimizes risk for everyone!”
The league plans to continue to work to educate players and other team employees about the virus and how to operate within the pandemic. Each team is required to hold at least one live virtual information session for players and staff and another one for family members.