The NFL has already allowed certain staff members to return to team facilities this month and has put specific safety measures in place as they try to gear up for a return to football. The NBA is another league looking to return to action sooner rather than later, but they are handling things a bit differently. Despite the fact that coronavirus cases are surging in Orange County, the NBA is sending teams to Disney World to finish the season. As of now the plan is for 22 teams to play eight "seeding" games to determine playoff standings, with a possible play-in series between the No. 8 and No. 9 seed of each conference if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed. The playoffs would then commence in a traditional format, with seven-game series in each round until a champion is crowned.
This will take place in a "bubble," and the players will be subject to some interesting rules during their time on this special campus. Players even have the option to wear a proximity alarm that will notify a player if he spends more than five seconds within six feet of another person who is also wearing an alarm. All team and league staff (potentially excluding referees) must wear the alarm. The NFL does not believe such intense measures are necessary, and league chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills spoke about their plan during a Wednesday conference call.
"We do not feel it's practical or appropriate to construct a bubble," Sills said, via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network. "Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return."
The NFL will rely on robust contact tracing and education, according to Sills. The protocols are still being developed, and Sills believes the testing strategy will look different from the start to the end of the season as science evolves. One detail that was revealed on Wednesday is that the league will test everyone who is exposed to players and coaches, such as officials, just prior to game day. Either way, the league is now discussing how to conduct training camp in the safest way possible.
"Everyone is very aware there will need to be an additional ramp-up for a period of time — both at the outset for medical exams and education," Sills said, via Ian Rapoport. "Then clearly as you get into physical activity, you'd have to do it step-wise."
Since the NBA will return to full activity next month, they will be an interesting case study that the NFL will most definitely keep tabs on. As Sills mentioned, there are still certain details the league is going to have to figure out in the coming weeks, and the NFL will continue to keep in touch with states and cities that have more restrictions in place regarding the pandemic as well as the NFLPA.