Even with the Coronavirus continuing to spread through the continental United States — albeit at a slower pace — the NFL is taking the next step in its reopening process this week: according to a memo sent by commissioner Roger Goodell to the league’s 32 clubs, their respective coaching staffs will be allowed to return to facilities as early as Friday. Previously, only those coaches directly involved in players’ rehabilitation processes were allowed in the buildings as part of the maximum 75 people permitted.
Excerpts from Goodell’s memo, which sets the return date for June 5, read as follows (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport):
Beginning tomorrow, June 5, coaching staffs may be among the employees returning to your facility. As has been emphasized in previous advice on reopening facilities, this may occur only if your club has otherwise received necessary permission from state and local governments to reopen its facility.
While the league set the return date for Friday, it appears as if the New England Patriots’ staff may have to wait one day longer: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced last week that the commonwealth’s five professional sports teams — the Patriots as well as the Boston Red Sox (MLB), the Boston Celtics (NBA), the Boston Bruins (NHL), and the New England Revolution (MLS) — would only be allowed to return to work and resume practicing on June 6.
But even with a one-day delay, we now know that Bill Belichick and company will soon be back at Gillette Stadium after having conducted all offseason work and even the NFL draft in a virtual setting. Accordingly, the league has raised the limit for how many people can now be in a facility at the same time: while only 75 team employees were allowed in given they followed state and local regulations, this number has now been increased to 100.
The league also announced that coaches and football staff now returning to the premises will have to talk to medical staffs or physicians about potential precautions, and also that testing protocols will be implemented before players are allowed to come back:
Coaches and other football staff, particularly those who may be in a higher risk category or who have concerns about their own health conditions, are expected to speak with the club medical staff or personal physician about any special precautions or other accommodations that may be appropriate for their particular circumstances. In addition, we will work with club medical staffs to implement a program of Covid-19 testing for the coaching staff and other football personnel prior to players returning to club facilities.
The question if and when players are allowed to return is still an open one, meanwhile. While discussions between the NFL and the NFLPA are ongoing, recent reports, plus the fact that at least one team (the New York Jets) has already canceled its minicamp practices, suggest that they will not be back at team facilities before the start of training camp — one that is currently still scheduled to take place in late July.