The Tennessee Titans’ Covid-19 outbreak will serve as, hopefully, the closest thing to a worst-case scenario that NFL will face this season, an outbreak that has infected 21 people between players and staff to date, and may potentially continue to climb, as a new player positive was registered just yesterday.
In light of the outbreak, the NFL has once again modified the league’s Covid-19-related protocols in a new agreement with the NFLPA, though it still leaves plenty of holes in the process—for example, it won’t prevent what just happened, with The New England Patriots’ Stephon Gilmore having likely played against the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday after having already contracted the virus but before registering positive.
Arguably the most significant change in the memo that went out late Tuesday night was the fact that the league is now requiring all teams to retain surveillance camera vide of their facilities for 30-day periods, so that NFL security can review that footage and monitor it for Covid-19 violations.
Reportedly, the NFL held a virtual conference recently with all 32 teams, during which they showed images of players and staff with the Titans and the Las Vegas Raiders not wearing masks while at their facilities—in case you were wondering why it’s important for a head coach like Jon Gruden to set an example for his team. Everybody in every facility is required to wear masks at all times.
Additionally, the new protocol mandates that teams must provide at least five transport buses and that no bus can expand beyond 50 percent capacity, up from a minimum of two buses. Teams will also be required to create schedules to reduce the amount of time that players spend gathered in locker rooms.
While not a change, there is also a clear reminder and clarification that everybody on the sideline during games except for players who are active and participating in the game must wear masks at all times. This includes inactive players, coaches, trainers, and anybody else who might be there who is not eligible to check into the game.
One more change concerns the ‘on-boarding’ process, including for free agents. Tier 1 individuals must now way at least six days with six PCR tests and a POC test on day six, with all returning negative, before they are permitted to enter a team’s facility, except for a free agent for the purpose of taking a physical.
This will make in-season roster movements more complicated if teams expect a new player to contribute right away. In fact, it will virtually ensure that they won’t be able to contribute in their first week. This includes players acquired via trade.
Another big change, the league has now banned all gatherings of more than three Tier 1 individuals outside of the team facility unless it has been specifically granted permission by the NFL and NFLPA. Any position group that meets regularly outside of the facility may now suddenly be unable to do this in-person unless granted permission.
The NFL’s new and more stringent COVID-19 protocols, via a memo distributed to teams: pic.twitter.com/PBL945xQt4
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 7, 2020