The NFL is placing all teams in intensive protocol starting Saturday to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 as the number of cases rises around the country.
Use of masks will be mandatory at all times at team facilities, including during practice and in weight rooms. Meetings must be held either virtually or in the largest indoor space with approval by the league. Meals have to be made available for grab-and-go to avoid players and staff congregating in cafeterias. Time spent in the locker room also has to be limited.
Clubs operating under the intensive protocols have reduced close contacts by more than 50 percent since the fifth week of the regular season, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press that was sent from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to teams on Wednesday.
“These sustained reductions and the resulting health and safety benefits make it appropriate to implement the intensive protocols on a mandatory, league-wide basis,” Goodell said in the memo.
So far, 28 teams have entered intensive protocol at some point and 16 teams have done it more than once. Teams not having been in the intensive protocols are the Jets, Buccaneers, Seahawks and Washington.
“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” Goodell wrote. “Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility.
“Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time. We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”
The NFL said Tuesday there were 17 new confirmed positives among players and 35 among other personnel during testing from Nov. 8-14. That brought the league’s total to 95 players and 175 other personnel since Aug. 1, not counting new cases this week.
Giants fire OL coach
The New York Giants fired offensive line coach Marc Colombo, a former Boston College standout offensive lineman from Bridgewater, Mass. Giants coach Joe Judge announced the stunning move after Colombo voiced his objection to the hiring of veteran line coach Dave DeGuglielmo as a consultant. It led to a heated verbal confrontation between Judge and Colombo, who had followed Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett from Dallas to New York. The Giants (3-7) are heading into a bye week with the new offensive line starting to play well. New York has won two straight games to get back in the race for the NFC East title. “We appreciate what Marc has done, but I felt like this move is in the best interest of the team,” Judge said in a statement. Judge and DeGuglielmo worked together on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff in New England in 2014-15.
Seven Raiders put on COVID list
The Las Vegas Raiders placed seven more players on the COVID-19 list as “high risk” close contacts with teammate Clelin Ferrell after he tested positive for the coronavirus. Ferrell, a starting defensive end, was placed on the list Tuesday following his positive test, along with defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. Safety Johnathan Abram, defensive tackle Maliek Collins, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, defensive lineman David Irving, cornerback Isaiah Johnson, defensive end Arden Key and defensive tackle Kendal Vickers were added to the list on Wednesday after contact tracing. If those players all keep testing negative and have no symptoms they will be able to return to play Sunday night at home against Kansas City, even though they will miss the week of practice . . . Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Corey Peters is out for the rest of the season because of a knee injury, coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed. Peters, 32, reportedly tore his patellar tendon according to the NFL Network and had to be carted off the field just before halftime of Arizona’s 32-30 home win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The 10-year veteran has been with the Cardinals for five years and started all nine games this season. He had 15 tackles, including three for a loss.
Burrow good to go
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said he was not having any trouble with the minor ankle injury he suffered in last week’s 36-10 loss at Pittsburgh and expects to start in Washington on Sunday. Burrow said he “rolled his ankle” when Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree gave the scrambling rookie QB a little extra shove after chasing him out of bounds near the end of the first half. Dupree wasn’t penalized, despite the protestations of Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor . . . The Carolina Panthers don’t expect running back Christian McCaffrey to play Sunday against Detroit because of a lingering shoulder issue, and the status of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater remains in doubt after he was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a sprained right knee . . . The Kansas City Chiefs signed safety DeAndre Baker to their practice squad, taking a chance on the 2019 first-round draft pick (30th overall) out of Georgia after he was let go by the New York Giants amid legal problems. Baker subsequently had all charges against him dropped this week after he was charged with four counts of armed robbery and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm after he was accused of taking jewelry and cash at gunpoint during an incident in May. The alleged victims later recanted their stories and those charges were dropped after a South Florida attorney was arrested Monday for attempting to extort Baker on behalf of three of the alleged victims.