On the eve of the NFL announcing its schedule for the 2020 regular season — the full schedule will be presented on Thursday, 8:00pm ET — the league sent a memo to its 32 member clubs outlining a path to reopening team facilities amidst the current Coronavirus crisis. While commissioner Roger Goodell did acknowledge that projections are impossible at this point in time, the NFL is trying to set the stage for a return to relative normalcy.
“An important step in the process of planning for the 2020 season involves the reopening of club facilities,” the memo reads and also includes the broad framework of a step-by-step plan to allow for what the league calls “a safe and phased reopening” in the coming weeks. This process will start by allowing a limited number of non-players into the facilities again in accordance with local guidelines (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero):
The first phase would involve a limited number of non-player personnel — initially 50 percent of your non-player employees (up to a total of 75) on any single day unless state or local regulations require a lower number. Clubs would decide which employees could return to the facility and when once facilities reopen. No players would be permitted in the facility except to continue a course of therapy and rehabilitation that was underway when facilities were initially closed.
As can be seen, the league is planning on a slow but steady return to a normal state — something exemplified by the fact that protocols could go into effect as early as next week:
Clubs should take steps to have these protocols in place by Friday, May 15 in anticipation of being advised when club facilities will formally reopen.
The memo further includes a broad overview of the guidelines that will be implemented in order to create a safe environment for those returning to work in NFL facilities like the New England Patriots’ at Gillette Stadium. According to Pelissero, these include the following key points on top of the first phase framework outlined above:
- Each club should establish an infection response team.
- Returning Phase One personnel should wear cloth face covering or medical-style masks (not N-95 masks, though, which should be reserved for health care workers) both at work and in public.
- Temperature checks will be performed upon arrival at team facilities and the normal temperature measured via no-touch thermometer should not exceed 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius.
- Non-essential medical care such as routine physical exams also should not take place during this first phase of reopening.
Furthermore, strength and conditioning as well as any on-field football work by the players would also not be allowed under the current guidelines unless related to players’ rehabilitation processes from injury. The NFL and the NFL Players Association reportedly remain in talks about when and how all players regardless of their injury status will be allowed to return to facilities after the end of the current “virtual period” on May 15.