The NFL will place all teams in an intensive protocol starting Saturday to reduce the risk of COVID-19 as the number of cases increases across the country.
The use of masks is mandatory at all times in team facilities, including during workouts and in weight rooms. Meetings must be held virtually or in the largest indoor area with competition approval. Meals should be made available to take away to prevent players and staff from congregating in cafeterias. Time spent in the locker room should also be limited.
Clubs operating under the intensive protocols have reduced close contacts by more than 50% since the fifth week of the regular season, according to a memo from The Associated Press sent to the teams on Wednesday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“These ongoing reductions and the resulting health and safety benefits make it appropriate to implement the intensive protocols on a mandatory, competition-wide basis,” Goodell said in the memo.
So far, 28 teams have once implemented an intensive protocol and 16 teams have done it more than once.
“The upcoming holidays, which begin next week with Thanksgiving, will introduce new exposure risks that we need to address now,” Goodell wrote. “Because we have a very sophisticated program of daily tests, we know when the virus will enter our facilities, underscoring the importance of contact tracking and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility.
“Recent experience has shown the importance of keeping close high-risk contacts to a minimum; on several occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short period of time. We have also seen many instances where effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club and barring players or coaches from training or matches. “
The NFL said on Tuesday there were 17 new confirmed positives among players and 35 among other staff during testing Nov. 8-14. That brought the league’s total to 95 players and 175 other staff since August 1, not counting new cases this week.
“The biggest motivator I find when we talk to the clubs about this is simply that if they don’t follow the protocols from the point of view of wearing a mask, or for some reason someone has forgotten their device or something like that, They are much more likely to be identified as a close, high-risk contact than would otherwise be the case, ”said Jeff Miller, the league’s executive vice president of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy.
So if that individual coach or player is removed from the team environment for five days because their mask was off, that’s a lesson learned throughout the facility. And so I don’t think we see many recurrence issues in that regard. Not everyone is always perfect. But I think most of the enforcement is taking someone out of the team environment and potentially giving them a chance to play in the game or practice for a week. I think some of it is a bit under-sold. It feels a lot when we talk to the clubs as a behavior change mechanism. “
Teams that have not been in the intensive protocols include the Jets, Buccaneers, Seahawks, and Washington.
“Well, it shifts some things,” said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “It’s no problem for us. … So we’ll do anything. … We are going to stick to the letter of the law and really keep the attitude that we can get this done. I think the mindset of it is important because it has to flow into all aspects and all facets of everyone’s life. “
Asked for his views on the intensive protocol mandates, Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson said, “We have to do what we have to do to get paid.”
Eagles corner-back Avonte Maddox, who lives with teammate Dallas Goedert, said they probably won’t be hosting family or friends for Thanksgiving to avoid further risks.
“You have to do whatever it takes to stay safe and play this game,” said Maddox. “You have to be responsible at home and ready for whatever they have planned for us.”