BOSTON (CBS) — When football players take the field, there’s really no possible way to keep them apart. When they’re off the field, though, the NFL and NFLPA are going to do everything possible to try to keep them separate.
The league released a memo to teams this week that outline various protocols that will need to be followed to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 within team facilities.
Some notable details from the memo:
–Clubs must establish physical distancing protocols to allow players and/or staff to maintain six (6) feet of distance from one another when inside the facility.
–All players and staff must wear masks (surgical or cloth) at all times when inside the facility (unless a mask cannot be worn by players due to interference with performance of athletic activities). Surgical masks must be replaced daily or more frequently if visibly soiled. Cloth masks must be laundered daily (with disinfectants), and/or staff and athletes must be provided with a sufficient supply of cloth masks so that they may rotate masks every three days. Clubs are responsible for obtaining an adequate supply of surgical and cloth masks.
–If a mask cannot be worn due to interference with performance of athletic activities, the mask must be placed in a labeled paper bag and the athlete must observe physical distancing practices for the duration of the activity. Hand hygiene must be encouraged every time the mask is touched, removed, or replaced.
–Clubs must reconfigure locker rooms to permit six (6) feet of space between each player (by using every other locker or adding additional lockers) where possible. Each player must have individual space designated to store his belongings, without comingling, if locker space is unavailable.
–Clubs are required to promote physical distancing by rearranging or removing furniture and/or using distance markers to assure spacing (e.g., workstations, meeting rooms), modifying the use of common areas, displaying signs that discourage hand shaking or other contact, and using cones or tape to establish one-way traffic in hallways and common corridors where possible.
–All players and/or club employees who have access to the Restricted Areas must undergo daily screening and testing prior to entering the facility.
–Where possible, the flow of foot traffic into and out of the facility must be automated or no-touch to remove or reduce the use of touchpoints (e.g., door handles, doorknobs, and push bars).
–Strength and conditioning workouts must be limited to small groups (no more than 15) of scheduled players to allow for physical distancing.
–Meetings must be conducted virtually to the extent possible. If in-person meetings are necessary, Clubs must make efforts to hold in-person meetings outdoors with participants sitting apart from one another and wearing masks. In-person meetings that do not permit physical distancing are prohibited.
–For their protection, players are not permitted to share water or sports drink bottles. Common water/hydration sources that do not permit physical distancing are prohibited. Use of individual single use water/sports drink bottles or disposable bottles or cups is required.
Additionally, the league will require teams to follow strict protocols with regard to cleaning and sanitizing their facilities. That includes some obvious measures but also some more complicated measures, such as:
–Clubs must ensure they have proper air flow and filtering throughout the facility. Clubs should measure ventilation in enclosed spaces by calculating air changes per hour, where possible. If CO2 levels in a room equals or exceeds 1,000 parts per million, then the room must undergo a comprehensive cleaning/disinfection.
–Helmets, shoulder pads and other daily use specific hard surface equipment must be cleaned after each practice or game using EPA list N disinfectants. Mouthpieces must be sanitized post practice with either appropriate UV light treatment or acceptable solution such as “Defense Solution.” Player gloves and uniforms must be washed daily. Clubs must use disinfectant detergent in all laundry cycles.
The league also referenced the potential for the development of facemasks/visors that can serve as PPE on the field.
–The NFL and NFLPA, through their respective experts, will continue to evaluate PPE needs and requirements and update the Clubs on an ongoing basis. Engineers are currently working on possible PPE solutions (e.g., visors integrated with raspatory [sic] technology) for on-field usage during athletic activity and in games.
Previously, NFLPA medical director Thom Mayer had mentioned the work being done in that particular area.
The full memo is nine pages long, and lays out the different tiers for employees that will be allowed into facilities and which areas they will have access to. The NFLPA has since informed members that the memo was sent to players without union approval.
While full teams are unlikely to gather until training camp begins in July, the new protocols can be implemented if teams opt to hold sessions for rookies before training camp begins.