The NFL may have extended its virtual offseason period last week to now run through May 29, but it still appears to be well on its course to reopen team facilities sooner rather than later. The latest memorandum sent out by Commissioner Roger Goodell to the league’s 32 organizations is further proof of that: the league, in accordance with its Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, has announced that the reopening process can start this week.
Goodell’s memo, which also spoke about reopening in a fashion that follows government guidelines, safety regulations and principles of competitive fairness, had to say the following about the process ahead (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport):
Clubs may reopen their facilities beginning on May 19 if they are permitted to do so under governing state and local regulations, are in compliance with any additional public health requirements in their jurisdiction, and have implemented the protocols that were developed by Dr. Sills and distributed to all clubs on May 6. Clubs unable to meet these criteria on May 19 may reopen their facilities on the earliest date thereafter on which they are able to meet the criteria.
The NFL originally had informed clubs that the protocols previously announced should be in place by May 15, and it seems as if it is keen to follow through on its plan to reopening. This means that the following provisions will be in place during this first phase of getting team personnel back into the facilities as early as this week:
- No players are allowed in the facilities unless currently undergoing medical treatment or rehab work.
- No members of the coaching staff are allowed to return to the facilities in order to “ensure quality among al 32 clubs.” The lone exception are strength and conditioning coaches currently working with rehabilitating players.
- Other staff — including personnel department, football operations, administration, equipment staff, and medical and nutritional professionals — is allowed in at the discretion of the team and in accordance to the league’s rules.
- Clubs will not be allowed to have more than 50 percent of their staff in the facilities at any given time, and no more than 75 persons.
Furthermore, the league noted that a training session with each organization’s Infection Control Officers — roles established in a memo sent earlier this month — will take place on Monday night to have team personnel ready and in the clear about the procedures moving forward. Those procedures also include clubs promptly reporting any Coronavirus cases found within the facility.
The first phase of reopening is an important step in demonstrating our ability to operate safely and effectively, even in the current environment. After we implement this first phase, and as more states and localities enact policies that allow more club facilities to reopen, I expect that additional staff, likely including coaching staff, will be allowed to return to club facilities in a relatively short time.
In the meantime, we are continuing to work with the NFLPA and our medial teams on developing protocols that could permit a certain number of players to return to club facilities as early as next month.
From the New England Patriots’ perspective, this means that they now have a road map to travel through the next few weeks even though state regulations will ultimately decide when the team can reopen its facilities. The Massachusetts government under Gov. Charlie Baker recently announced a four-step plan to reopen the commonwealth over the next few weeks, even though no concrete measures have been announced other than the first phase being set to begin next week.
The plan itself was presented as follows:
The 17-member advisory board, led by Lt. Gov. Kary Polito and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Mike Kennealy, came up with the four-phase plan and will meet later on Monday to announce further details. May 18, after all, is the day that Gov. Baker’s order closing non-essential businesses is set to expire. Meanwhile, the reopening process is expected to start with construction, manufacturing, and places of worship.
There have been no reports when the Patriots, who are historically well-connected with the Baker administration, are allowed to reopen their facility under state guidelines. Per the NFL, however, they would be ready to return to work — at least in limited capacity — as early as this week.