The start of the 2020 NFL season is inching closer, and the league took a big step this week by sharing the protocols and guidelines they are negotiating with the players union for playing the season amidst the ongoing pandemic. Here’s what you need to know.
During the season, travel protocols will include team buses being limited to 50% capacity while players are transported during road trips. While flying, there must be at least one open seat between everyone on the plane.
Also, every player and team employee will get their own hotel room prior to road games so that nobody is sharing a room. Players must also use room service of contactless food-delivery services rather than visiting restaurants.
In fact, players can’t use any form of public transportation unless provided by the team. Most importantly, all players and team personnel have to wear masks while traveling.
Not Sharing is Caring
While players are at team facilities during training camp and practices, players will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. Also, they won’t be allowed to share water bottles, food, or towels with other players.
Any player who starts to exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 is being instructed to go home and quarantine right away.
Postgame handshakes will be all but eliminated this season, with players being required to stand at least six feet from one another after games. Locker rooms must be altered as much as possible to allow for social distancing.
The locker room will also be closed to the media, with interviews being conducted using video conferencing.
Testing and Tracing
The NFL is requiring all players and team personnel to wear recording devices that can be used for contact tracing. That means if a player tests positive, every other player, coach, or employee who had close contact with that player can be identified.
There will also be additional testing for any player who has previously tested positive for the virus or antibodies.
As the protocols continue to be worked out, the NFL has circulated a memo informing teams that players should arrive for the start of training camp league-wide on July 28. Rookies should arrive the previous Tuesday with quarterbacks and injured players reporting on July 23.
In the meantime, the NFL Players Association is fielding questions and concerns about what exactly training camps will look like. Union representatives are also imploring their fellow players to be careful outside of team facilities, noting that if a player is infected outside the locker room, it can spread quickly inside the locker room.
Meanwhile, there is still a disagreement between the league and the union on preseason games, with the NFL hopeful to schedule two games for each team while the players pushing for no preseason games.
Five for Fighting
While the NFL is preparing players and staff members to stay safe, referees are also making plans for the season just in case. The league is currently training officials to referee games with only five refs on the crew.
As it stands, the NFL has enough officials for 17 officiating crews. However, if some fall ill or opt out of the season due to health concerns, adjustments will have to be made on the fly. That could mean officials sacrificing an off week or some crews working with five members.
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