NFL Mandates That All Teams Will Operate Under Intensive Covid-19 Protocols In Effort To Reduce Close Contacts

Beginning immediately—as in yesterday—the NFL made a significant announcement, which was that for the remainder of the 2020 season, all teams would operate under intensive Covid-19 protocols. Previously, only teams who experienced a positive case or were exposed to a team dealing with a positive case would enter the intensive protocols, which were introduced at the beginning of October.

Perhaps the most significant element involved in the intensive protocols is the nature through which team meetings can be conducted. All meetings are required to be held virtually, unless a team has a pre-approved plan to hold that meeting safely within their facility, possibly in an outdoor environment.

Another element of the intensive protocols requires that all players and personnel must wear facemasks at all times when they are at the facility, including on the practice field. We are getting closer and closer to the point where masks will also be mandates for all players, whether they are active or otherwise, while they are not in the game playing.

Arguably the third major component of the intensive protocols is that it also significantly curtails player privileges away from the facility. It basically prohibits players from gathering, either with one another or in groups outside of the team, unless coordinated and pre-approved with the league.

Over the period of one week between November 8-14, the league experienced 17 new player positives (including at least one for the Pittsburgh Steelers in tight end Vance McDonald, and possibly lineman Kevin Dotson as well), and 35 new positives among other personnel. Since the beginning of August, there have been 95 total player positives and 175 positives among other personnel.

95 players equates very nearly to three players per team, though that is more than just the 53-man roster, and also includes the practice squad, injured reserve, and any other list a player might be on while still around the team.

This news comes on the same day that it is announced the Las Vegas Raiders will have to place more than half of its starting defense on the Reserve/Covid-19 List because they were deemed to be high-risk close contacts of a positive case.

The intensive protocols were designed specifically to limit the number of close contacts that both players and staff would have while at the team facilities, and league data shows that it has been effective in dramatically reducing close contacts.

The hope is that with all teams operating under intensive protocols for the remainder of the season, they will largely eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the number of players required to enter the Reserve/Covid-19 List because they had a high-risk exposure to Covid-19. Basically, to avoid situations like the Raiders are now dealing with, and which, admittedly, the Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens, and other teams have managed. Between October and the middle of November, 28 teams were required for at least one week to enter intensive protocols. Now it’s required permanently for 2020 leaguewide.

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