The NFL has taken its first steps toward reopening team facilities that have been shuttered since March 24 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcing guidelines for the eventual use of the practice sites.
A set of protocols was released Wednesday evening by the league in a letter from commissioner Roger Goodell to team owners and top executives. According to the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday, teams should have the protocols in place by May 15 in anticipation of when the facilities might formally reopen.
“The protocols are intended to allow for a safe and phased reopening,” the memo said.
The initial phase would involve a limited number of non-player personnel, starting with 50% of the employees up to a total of 75 on any single day, unless state or local regulations specify a reduced number. Only players continuing a course of physical therapy or rehabilitation that had been underway when the facilities were closed would be permitted in the initial phase.
“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 said. “We are actively working on the next phase of reopening, which will involve both greater numbers of staff and players as well. We are actively working with the NFLPA on the protocols that would apply to player access to facilities and expect to have those protocols developed fairly soon.”
Under the plan for the first phase, facilities may be reopened when state and local government consent to reopening, the club has implemented operational guidelines as mandated by the league to minimize the risk of virus transmission among employees, the club has acquired adequate amounts of medical supplies, and the team has created an infection response team and an infection control officer. In addition, each employee must receive COVID-19 safety and hygiene training.
Employees will be encouraged to take their temperature at home and remain there if their temperature is elevated. Employees also must adhere to strict social distance guidelines, which include the reduction of staff congregating in any one area and the use of personal protective equipment, including face coverings that are to be worn in all common areas where close contact may occur. Employees must avoid person-to-person contact, including handshakes, and avoid touching their face. The facilities will be cleaned using EPA-approved disinfectants, and the disinfecting of contact surfaces will occur daily. In the event of a positive case of COVID-19, deep cleaning of exposed areas will occur.
Goodell also cautioned teams not to speculate on what might happen down the road in terms of planning for the upcoming season.
“The past few months have been among the most uncertain times that any of us has experienced,” he said. “It is impossible to project what the next few months will bring. Uninformed commentary that speculates on how individual clubs or the league will address a range of hypothetical contingencies serves no constructive purpose and instead confuses our fans and business partners, complicates the operations of other clubs, and distracts from the careful planning that is needed right now.”