NFL, NFLPA issue protocol for players returning to team facilities


FILE – In this Sept. 24, 2017, file photo, fans watch during the second half of an NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Denver Broncos at New Era Field in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bills have informed county officials they will not use an early and one-time opt-out clause to terminate their lease at New Era Field. The team’s decision, sent in a letter to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, was considered a formality, but in no way rules out the possibility of the Bills one day playing at new facility in downtown Buffalo. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The NFL and NFL Players Association have been working to come up with a protocol that will allow players to return to their team facilities.

In the proposal, the NFL and NFLPA announced new measures pertaining to facility access, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting the facility and equipment, food service, and PPE and hygiene for all employees.

As teams return to facilities, team personnel will be divided into tiers regarding the level of access to different restricted areas. Players, coaches, athletic trainers, team physicians, the head strength and conditioning coach and head equipment manager are in Tier 1, which has a maximum of 60 personnel. Those in Tier 2 include other essential personnel who may need to be in close proximity to players and other Tier 1 individuals and may need access to restricted areas. Tier 3 includes individuals who perform essential facility, stadium or event services but do not require close contact with Tier 1 individuals.

Only those in Tiers 1 and 2 are allowed entrance to restricted areas, including locker rooms, practice and stadium playing fields and sidelines, athletic training rooms, medical exam rooms, player meal and meeting rooms, player lounge and weight rooms.

As players return to the facilities, clubs will isolate players and other essential football personnel from other club staff by creating separate entrances for the sole use of those in Tiers 1 and 2. They will also automate or no-touch the doors going in and out of the facility, and test all players and club personnel who have access to restricted areas daily.

Clubs must establish social distancing measures to allow players and staff to maintain six feet within each other while in the facility. Locker rooms will be reconfigured to allow six feet between each player. Strength and conditioning workouts will be limited to groups of 15 or fewer. Clubs will have to stagger player appointments, meetings and workouts in order to permit social distancing. Meetings will be held virtually as much as possible.

Before any players or staff are allowed back, facilities will be closed to all personnel to allow for a 48 hour deep clean by a professional service.

Clubs must have at least a two-week supply of all PPE and hygiene materials on hand at all times. Hand sanitizer and other hygiene materials must be available in all areas of the facility.

All players and staff must wear masks while inside the facility, except when it interferes with athletic abilities. Clubs are responsible for obtaining an adequate supply of masks for the staff and players. While practicing, players must maintain social distancing.

Meal room access must be limited only to those in Tier 1 and Tier 2 who have undergone appropriate screening and testing. Clubs must consider further limiting access or staggering mealtimes to allow for social distancing.

The NFL and NFLPA will strictly enforce compliance of these protocols.

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