The NFL on Tuesday sent updated coronavirus protocols to teams following last week’s outbreak of positive cases within the Tennessee Titans.
The new protocols had been promised and outlined in a memo sent Monday to teams by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after head coaches and general managers participated in a conference call with the league. The NFL used Monday’s call to stress the need for adherence to the protocols, and Goodell’s memo warned that any violation of the protocols necessitating changes to the schedule could result in the offending team being punished by game forfeits or loss of draft picks. Goodell also wrote that the league would use a video surveillance system to monitor teams’ compliance at their facilities.
NFL warns teams of forfeits, losses of draft picks for protocol violations as Titans’ outbreak relents
Tuesday’s memo to teams provided further details on modifications to the protocols that had been mentioned by Goodell. Teams are required to maintain copies of the video from the surveillance system in their facilities for at least 30 days, which will be reviewed by the NFL’s security staff to ensure that mask-wearing requirements and other required measures are being followed.
Teams are to limit players’ time spent in locker rooms and eating areas and adhere to distancing measures. Players and team staffers must wear masks at all times in team facilities and on the practice field, except when a mask cannot be worn by players because of interference with athletic activities. Groups of more than three players, coaches and staffers are prohibited from gathering away from a team’s facility.
Each team now must provide at least five buses, up from two, while traveling, with no bus at more than 50 percent capacity. During games, all individuals in the bench area except for “active” players must wear masks. A free agent joining a team now cannot enter that team’s facility until Day 6 after arrival, following five straight days of coronavirus testing and a point-of-care test on Day 6 before entry. A team cannot bring in more than five players per week for tryouts, with certain exceptions.
The new measures have been enacted after the league was forced to deal with the Titans’ outbreak. The Titans had two new positive test results on Wednesday, which will keep their facility closed for the time being. Tennessee had no new positive test results Tuesday or Monday, according to a person familiar with the results, after six straight days with positive tests. Eighteen members of the organization, including nine players and nine staffers, tested positive over those six days. The team has now had 22 positive cases in all, including two from the previous week.
Gilmore, who won last season’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the Patriots, also tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, as did a player on the Raiders. It is not yet known what these positive tests will mean for games scheduled for this weekend.
The league and the NFL Players Association are reviewing the origins of the Titans’ outbreak, and the team could face disciplinary measures by the NFL if they’re found to have violated the league’s protocols. Titans Coach Mike Vrabel has said repeatedly he is confident that the team complied with all protocols.
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