NFL further limits player access to facilities amid virus

By Barry Wilner

The NFL is further limiting player access to team facilities as it attempts to enhance safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a memo sent to the 32 clubs and obtained by The Associated Press, teams must close their facilities for two days after games, with some exceptions.

Beginning Monday, that all teams playing on a Sunday must close those facilities the next two days — except for clubs playing on the subsequent Thursday. Only players needing medical attention for injuries or in rehab programs may enter the team complex.

Coaches can access the facility but must work in their own offices and can’t conduct meetings except virtually.

Teams playing on Monday nights can next have players in their facilities on Thursday, and teams with Thursday night games must close the complex to players until Sunday.

“There are no exceptions to this prohibition,” the league wrote. “Approvals previously received for in-person meetings will not apply on these two days.”

Locker rooms and cafeterias must be closed during those days.

Tryouts will be permitted on those days with only “essential football personnel” attending. Players trying out for a team are subject to current testing rules.

Such arrangements were agreed to by the players’ union.

USA Today first reported the memo being sent to the clubs.

The NFL also is lifting the 62-player game travel limit for teams. Each team can determine how many players to take to road games, including practice squad players. That takes effect for this week’s games, and should help with filling out the 48-man roster in case of issues with the coronavirus on game days.

All players who attend games for both home and visiting teams and will be on the sideline or in a designated stadium space with other players and personnel must stay at the team hotel the night before the game.

NFL protocols have been adjusted constantly since training camps, with stiffer restrictions put in place in recent weeks as the nation undergoes a surge in the novel coronavirus.

The league had its second major outbreak in the last two weeks, with the Baltimore Ravens having at least two dozen people testing positive. That led to shuffling Baltimore games at Pittsburgh from Thanksgiving night to last Sunday, then to Tuesday and again to Wednesday, when the Steelers won 19-14.

“Finally,” the league wrote in the memo, “please remind all players and staff that gatherings among players and/or club staff of any number outside of the club facility are prohibited at all times pursuant to the intensive protocol.”

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