NFL commissioner Roger Goodell distributed to all 32 teams Monday the lengthy protocols developed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as the NFL attempts to play its 2020 season on time and in front of fans.
The protocols were developed jointly between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, and with input from the Centers for Disease Control and Duke University Infection Control Network.
The nine-page protocol governing the return to team facilities provides guidelines for a wide number of issues, including physical distancing, weight room practices, and disinfecting requirements. The NFL and the players also distributed a four-page educational protocol that will be mandatory for every player and employee in the league to take before they return to the facility.
To ensure that teams are adhering to the protocols, the NFL and NFLPA said the league has the ability to make “unannounced inspections” of facilities this summer.
One area these protocols don’t address is the frequency of COVID-19 testing for league employees. The NFL and NFLPA are still working on those guidelines.
Among the important points of the return-to-facility protocols:
▪ Physical distancing is a top priority. Teams are required to rearrange or remove furniture in locker rooms and common areas to ensure 6 feet of distance, including between lockers. One-way traffic in hallways is encouraged.
▪ Workouts must be limited to groups of no more than 15. Meetings, workouts, and appointments with the training staff must be staggered throughout the day. Meetings should be conducted virtually if possible.
▪ All players and staff must wear masks (surgical or cloth) at all times inside the facility, with exceptions made for athletic activities. Teams must provide N95 masks, goggles, face shields, gowns, and gloves for the medical staff.
▪ ”High-touch” surfaces must be cleaned three times a day with hospital-grade disinfectants. Other surfaces must be cleaned once a day. Teams must have a two-week supply of hospital-grade disinfectant on hand.
▪ Weight-room activities should be moved outside or to a better-ventilated area if possible. Hand sanitation stations and disinfectant wipes should be in close proximity of equipment. Strength coaches have to wear masks during workouts (players are encouraged but not required). At the end of each workout, equipment must be cleaned, “preferably with an electrostatic disinfection process (i.e. Clorox 360) or use of vaporized hydrogen peroxide.”
▪ Every person entering the facility must clean and disinfect cell phones, keys, and other common items. They also must answer five screening questions.
▪ Employees will be sorted into tiers and given access to certain parts of the team facility based on their job function. Teams must create separate entrances to the building for different tiers of employees, or stagger the entrances throughout the day.
▪ Helmets, shoulder pads, and other equipment must be cleaned after each practice. Gloves must be washed daily, mouthpieces sanitized daily. Players will get single-use towels during practice, training, and games, and cannot share. Use of individual water bottles is required.
▪ Buffet-style, communal, and self-serve meals are prohibited, even for coffee bars or shake and fueling stations. Whenever possible, teams should serve premade meals wrapped in individual containers. Teams must use disposable utensils and plates and single-use condiments.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.