The protocols, developed by the league and the NFL Players Association, were sent to teams by the NFL, which wrote in a memo: “These updates reflect last season’s experience[,] the recent development and adoption of COVID vaccines and updated guidance from the CDC.”
Under the protocols, vaccinated players and team personnel will be tested once every 14 days; unvaccinated players and staffers will remain subject to daily coronavirus testing. Vaccinated players and personnel no longer are subject to being quarantined through contact tracing; those not vaccinated continue to face mandatory quarantines if identified as high-risk close contacts to an individual who tests positive for the coronavirus.
Vaccinated players and staffers have no mask-wearing requirement at teams’ facilities or during team travel, no physical distancing requirements, no travel restrictions, no capacity limits in team weight rooms and no restrictions on marketing and sponsorship activities. They are permitted to eat in team cafeterias with other vaccinated individuals, may use saunas and steam rooms and may interact with vaccinated family members and friends during team travel. Non-vaccinated players and team staffers continue to face rigid protocols in line with what was in effect last season.
More than half of NFL players have received at least one vaccine dose, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday.
“Failure to adhere to these requirements … will result in league discipline which will be assessed against individuals and, where appropriate, clubs,” the league wrote in Wednesday’s memo to teams. “A club, and its senior management, will be subject to discipline if it is found that the club did not take appropriate measures to enforce these Protocols. As we did last season, the league will be taking measures to ensure Protocol compliance.”
Fines for most protocol violations are set at $14,650 per infraction. That includes an unvaccinated player attending an indoor bar or nightclub or attending an indoor concert or entertainment event. A fine of up to $50,000 applies to more serious violations, such as a player failing to cooperate with an investigation into protocol compliance.
Vaccinated media members have access to teams’ training facilities, stadium press boxes and sidelines. They can conduct in-person interviews with players, coaches and team staffers with distancing requirements in effect. But locker room access following preseason games is restored in a “limited” fashion only to those reporters affiliated with NFL teams, the league-owned NFL Network and NFL Films.
“Fully vaccinated Club media, NFL Films and Network (limited to 2 individuals from each of NFL Films and the Network) personnel will be permitted limited access to the Locker Room postgame,” the NFL wrote in its memo. “All other media will be prohibited from accessing the Locker Room.”
Under the protocols, teams are allowed to host fans at their training camp sites. But those fans must be kept more than 20 feet away from the players and coaches and cannot interact with players for autographs or photos.