The NFL Players Association has sent a memo to the NFL recommending a number of different approaches for how the league can address a wide array of open issues surrounding COVID-19 and how it relates to the start of training camp and the preseason. The memo, obtained by CBS Sports, also highlights the NFLPA's reiterated recommendation to cancel the preseason altogether. CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported the league's plan to reduce the preseason from four games to two but did leave open the possibility for it to be scrapped entirely.
While that situation appears to be fluid, the more pressing matters at hand are what the protocols will be for players when they arrive at the team facilities in just a few weeks. In the nine-point recommendation, the NFLPA offers ideas for how teams should handle the arrival of players in the coming weeks, frequency of testing, how big rosters should be, fan attendance during training camp, among others.
Here's a quick rundown of some of the most noteworthy suggestions offered by the Players Association in this recent memo:
- Minimize time spent at the facilities (group meeting to be held virtually)
- No mandatory hotel stays for players
- Limit group activities leading up to travel/games (No 11-on-11 drills or other activities which heighten the risk of transmission starting on Thursday)
- Reduce roster size from 90 to 80 players
- Daily testing for Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals using mid-nasal swab during the first few weeks of camp and weekly testing for Tier 3 individuals
- Mandatory testing for any individuals with bench or field access
- Mandatory use of tracking wristbands among all individuals, but only while in the facility, at practice, training, travel, and games
- Encourage the use of face shields during training camp and reevaluate following field testing and player feedback
As it relates to possible fan attendance at training camp, the NFLPA suggests up to two events can be held, but with a number of stipulations. There cannot be interaction or physical proximity between Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals and fans. They also can't be allowed onto the field. Fans must be seated a certain distance away from the field and will be subject to temperature checks and symptom screenings upon arrival.
Finalizing a clear plan prior to camps opening up is imperative for the league as cases of the coronavirus continue to rise throughout various areas of the country. While no players have opted out of the 2020 campaign to this point, there have been some that have expressed uneasiness about the season. Bills receiver Stefon Diggs noted that he'd "be lying if I said I was comfortable starting back up." Carolina's Tre Boston is another who is still questioning how players will be able to have enough time to ramp up for the season while also remaining safe from the virus.
As it relates to potential positive tests, the league did send out protocols last week for how each club should handle them. If an individual tests positive but has no symptoms they will not be able to return until 10 days after their initial positive test or in five days if they have gone through two consecutive negative PCR virus tests separated by 24 hours. If an individual tests positive and is symptomatic, they will have to wait 10 days from the first sign of COVID-19 symptoms and allow 72 hours to pass since their last sign of symptoms. They'll also need approval by the team physician.
While these suggestions and protocols are a necessary step for both sides to come up with a universal plan to begin camps across the league, the clock is ticking for both the NFL and NFLPA to button things up before everyone descends to their respective cities in just a few short weeks.