NFL COVID-19 Protocols

During this unprecedented year, the NFL distributed a consolidated set of the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 protocols for the 2020 regular season that prioritize mitigating risk for players, staff, media, and everyone involved with the game.

The NFL, NFLPA, clubs and players have a shared responsibility to adhere to expert recommendations. The protocols will continually adapt to reflect the latest science around COVID-19.

Keeping players and personnel protected from the virus is the number one priority of the NFL and NFLPA.

With Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills and voices of medical experts from across the league, watch how the NFL developed and implemented the COVID-19 protocols in the NFL's COVID-19 Playbook.

Enhanced COVID-19 Protocols 

Below is a summary of the new protocols. Unless otherwise noted, these rules were implemented starting with the Thanksgiving Day games during Week 12 and continue throughout the remainder of the season.

GameDay Mask Requirement

Players on the sidelines who are not substituting or preparing to enter the game and are not wearing their helmets must wear a mask or a double-layered gaiter.

Coaches who choose to wear a face shield must also wear a face mask or double-layered gaiter in addition to the face shield. This requirement now applies to play callers and is consistent with protocols for all other coaches.

Post-Game Interaction

Post-game interactions between opposing players or team staff will be limited. Players and team personnel must also wear masks and may briefly exchange greetings before promptly proceeding to their locker rooms.

Clubs are required to enforce these rules. The league strongly recommends that each club designate one or two individuals in the bench area to ensure compliance with these rules.

Player Travel Party/Game Eligible Designation

The maximum number of players that may travel will be reduced to 62. To ensure competitive equity, teams must submit their list of designated players (including any players on Reserve/Injured list who wish to attend the game) by 4 pm Eastern Time on the day before gameday. A player not listed may not participate in or attend the game.

Masks on Team Buses and Planes

Beginning with travel for all Week 13 games, all members of a team’s traveling party will be required to wear N95 or KN95 masks on both the team plane and also the team bus.

Club Facility Staffing

Beginning Monday, November 30, access to club facilities while coaches and players are present will be limited to essential football personnel, essential support personnel, other medical and special services, and limited media.

All personnel not designated in these categories must work remotely or at a location physically separate from the facility housing players and coaches. They are prohibited from interacting with essential football personnel at any time.

This restriction will take effect on Monday, November 30; however, clubs are strongly encouraged to implement these rules as soon as possible.

Testing and treatment

During the 2020 season, the NFL and NFLPA are using a testing program to help identify, treat and isolate infected individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Testing is just one component of the comprehensive effort to mitigate risk of COVID-19 during the 2020 season. Other efforts include the overhaul of club facilities to accommodate physical distancing, around-the-clock cleaning and disinfection, a modernized system of contact tracing, and behavior-based changes, like virtual meetings, mask-wearing and avoiding large gatherings.

Check out the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Testing & Treatment Protocols fact sheet.

Facility and Gameday Changes

Since the start of the 2020 season, the NFL has adjusted various facets of the game to ensure players, staff and officials are as safe as possible. As a result, the number of people present on gameday has significantly decreased.

To help limit access to restricted areas, club personnel were divided into three tiers based on their roles and responsibilities. This determines which areas of the facility they can access, as well as when and for what purpose.

  • Tier 1: Player and personnel with direct access to players
  • Tier 2: Personnel in close proximity to players
  • Tier 3: Personnel whose job responsibilities do not require close proximity to players

Tier 1 and 2 access is limited with restricted areas secured at all times and credentials checked prior to allowing access to certain areas. To adhere to the protocols set in place by the NFL and NFLPA, club facilities look a little different with plexiglass partitions installed in locker rooms, socially-distanced meeting rooms, directional signage and more.

Club stadiums without fans due to COVID-19 protocols received specific, pre-recorded crowd noise that must be played at 70 decibels. The sound is monitored at each stadium by the NFL Football Operations team to make sure it stays at the required level.

This season, the NFL also assigned officiating crews based on geography to limit travel and allow individual officials to drive to as many games as possible. The decision was made to mitigate the risk for officials and reduce the number of flights needed.

For the first time in three years, referees will watch replays on the sidelines under the hood – instead of the hand-held Microsoft Surfaces they’ve used in the past. This change was implemented to limit the number of individuals on the field and overall amount of interactions. Officials also have the option of using red electronic whistles for the 2020 season – designed to fit in their hands and activated by a thumb button.

CONTACT TRACING TECHNOLOGY

To comply with COVID-19 protocols, the NFL and NFLPA developed a set of health and safety protocols to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for everyone in a team environment.

Players and personnel wear mandatory proximity recording devices when at the club facility, during practices, and during team travel. Players also have them built into their equipment for use on-field in practice and games.

The device collects data about individuals’ proximity to each other to perform quick and accurate contact tracing when an individual is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19.

The NFL, NFLPA, clubs, players, and officials have a shared responsibility to adhere to expert recommendations. The protocols will continually adapt to reflect the latest science around COVID-19.

This page will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. Check back here for updates and follow Football Operations on Twitter. To learn more, visit the NFL’s Player Health & Safety site.

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