The NFL and NFLPA announced Thursday that they are ending the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions that have existed for nearly the last two years. The NFL released a memo today saying the restrictions are now over, and functionally, the league is back to its pre-COVID normal.
The memo begins by stating: “Based on current encouraging trends regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19, the evolving guidance of the CDC, changes to state law and the counsel of our respective experts, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to suspend all aspects of the COVID-19 joint Protocols, effective immediately.”
Some of those protocols that are ending include: Mandatory testing of players and staff, the use of tracer devices, wearing masks indoors (regardless of vaccination status) and club facility/weight room capacity limits.
The number of COVID cases have been on a steep decline since early January and are at their lowest nationally since last July. Numbers that will hopefully continue to fall off especially as spring nears.
The league has instituted protocols since the pandemic began in March of 2020. The NFL has often looked very different since then from 2020 Pro Days being nearly entirely wiped out, the 2020 Draft being held virtually, a limited number of fans attending 2020 games, and the 2021 Combine being cancelled for the first time in its history. The 2021 season brought relative normalcy though outbreaks of COVID cases inside locker rooms continued to be an issue. While several games over the last two years were postponed and rescheduled, no regular season games were cancelled.
Though not officially announced by the league, the ending of these restrictions should also signal the end of temporary rule changes to mitigate the COVID environment. That included expanded practice squads and eligibility, the elimination of the reserve/COVID list, practice squad protections, and adjusted IR rules.
It is possible the league keeps some of those rule changes that were generally viewed favorably by the league. But that announcement may not come until later in the summer.
Of course, should COVID cases climb again later this year, it’s possible the league reinstitutes these policies.