NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo to all 32 teams to start laying the groundwork to get players back into team facilities as soon as possible. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Goodell covered topics such as cleaning guidelines, physical distancing, food service, hygiene, and proper handling of protective equipment.
“As you know, over the past two months, we have worked closely with the NFLPA and outside medical experts to develop protocols that will facilitate a safe return to practice and play for NFL players and football staffs,” Goodell said to begin the memo. “These protocols are based on work done by a series of joint NFL-NFLPA task forces, which have brought together our own medical advisors, led by Dr. Sills, representatives of almost every member club, outside medical experts, including from the CDC, Duke University Infection Control Network (DICON) and other major universities, and NFLPA medical team.”
Around the NFL’s Kevin Patra said all players and staff members would have to wear a mask at all times in the facility unless that mask interferes with athletic activities such as team workouts and practices. Each team reportedly must break personnel into three tiers for “access to certain areas of the facility.” Tier one will consist of players, coaches, trainers, physicians, strength and conditioning staff, and head equipment managers. Tier two will be non-playing personnel who must be in close contact with players and coaches. These include general managers, PR staff members, and operations staff. The third tier will consist of essential staff members of the facility, stadium, and event staff.
The guidelines also require all players and staff to maintain the six feet of distance between each other at all times while within the facilities. This means that most, if not all, teams will have to use larger meeting areas as regular team meeting rooms will not be able to host 90-100+ people at one time. The guidelines do suggest hosting in-person meetings outside and utilizing virtual meetings whenever possible.
Some former players believe the meeting rooms aren’t big enough to handle all of the physical distancing requirements and that the cafeteria and indoor facilities in team buildings will need to be put to use.
In the 49ers locker room, the players are essentially stacked on top of each other. The lockers are very close and, assuming these protocols will be put into place; it will require some creativity. The Niners may end up using both locker room locations or a makeshift locker room to accommodate all 90 players.
Recommending the team continues virtual meetings, even after a return to the facility, means the league is taking every precaution when it comes to players limiting contact with others. If this requirement spills into training camp and the regular season, it would be hard to believe media availability would return to normalcy before midway through the year — or perhaps even the start of next season. With this memo, I foresee the Zoom call availability carrying into at least some of training camp, at the very least.