Taking one step closer to the NFL potentially beginning its 2020 regular season as scheduled, the league sent a memo to teams giving them permission toas early as June 5, as long as it was/is also permitted by local law. Players, however, are still banned from returning until further notice, as league commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFLPA work to establish protocols that would help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to giving players the green light. To that end, the two sides released a memo on June 8 that outlines required procedures each team must put into place before players are allowed back, and they are extensive.
While there is still no decision on a formal date for when it'll happen, the memo details items that will be quite the undertaking for clubs. One of which focuses on social distancing practices, which is obviously a challenge when it comes to a contact sport like the NFL. The most notable of the league's new physical distancing guidelines involves an overhaul of each team's locker room setup, which is easier said-than-done, but required, nonetheless.
Here's the excerpt pertaining to those changes, which also itemizes how workouts and meetings are to be conducted:
a. Clubs must establish physical distancing protocols to allow players and/or staff to maintain six fee of distance from one another when inside the facility.
b. Clubs are required to promote physical distancing by rearranging or removing furniture and/or using distance marker to assure spacing (e.g., workstations, meeting rooms), modifying the use of common areas, displaying signs that discourage hand shaking or other contact, and using cones or tape to establish a one-way traffic in hallways and common corridors where possible.
c. Clubs must reconfigure locker rooms to permit six feet of space between each player (by using every other locker or adding additional lockers) where possible. Each player must have individual space designated to store his belongings, without commingling, if locker space is unavailable.
d. Strength and conditioning workouts must be limited to small groups (no more than 15) of scheduled players to allow for physical distancing. The athletic training staff must require individual, staggered player appointments instead of setting a single time for large groups to arrive. Clubs must stagger other player appointments, meetings and workouts at the facility in order to permit physical distancing.
e. Meetings must be conducted virtually to the extent possible. If in-person meetings are necessary, Clubs must make efforts to hold in-person meetings outdoors with participants sitting apart from one another and wearing masks. In-person meetings that do not permit physical distancing are prohibited. Meetings with more than twenty individuals must be conducted virtually, unless physical distancing practices can be adhered to. Communal use of materials, devices, or supplies during meetings ins prohibited. Any administrative, playbook, and advanced work should be conducted on a personal electronic device.
Additionally noted in the multi-page memo is a requirement for players to wear masks "except when interfering with 'athletic activities'", as they are guided around their facility by cones and signs that are set up to force one-way traffic in communal areas.
The memo falls short of identifying the frequency in which players and staff will be tested for coronavirus -- indication talks are still ongoing and players may still be weeks away from being allowed to physically get back to working with coaches. Although necessary, the new COVID-19 policies create an interesting set of questions for each team. Considering some locker rooms are "smaller" than others, there's inherent bewilderment as to how clubs will create the required social distancing in a situation wherein 90 players are to report, prior to final roster cutdowns in late August the reduce the headcount to 55.
This, among many other things, will be something every team has to figure out -- and quickly -- if the goal is to have training camp begin on-time. As it stands, there's little hope everything can be ironed out in time for a June minicamp, but that's yet to be officially ruled out.