NFL again strengthens mask rules, COVID-19 protocols amid outbreaks

·3-min read

After several small outbreaks across the league, the NFL is once again strengthening its COVID-19 protocols.

The NFL sent out new coronavirus safety protocols to teams on Tuesday following a league meeting, something it thinks will help curb the spread of the virus as the season continues.

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Updated mask rules, protocols

One of the biggest changes has to do with mask usage, something some coaches have struggled with so far this season.

The league strengthened its mask rules, and prohibited the use of gaiter masks, masks with valves or vents and face shields at team facilities. Surgical masks are preferred.

Coaches, the league said in the memo, can still wear gaiter masks on the field during games. Face shields, like Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid likes to wear, appear to now be off limits completely.

Several coaches were fined after Week 2 of the season for not wearing their masks correctly on the sidelines, and Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden seems to be the worst offender. The league handed out $1.75 million in fines in Week 2, and has since threatened to punish teams who violate safety protocols with the loss of draft picks or even game forfeiture.

Among other new rules, teams are now required to have at least five buses for travel and teams need to keep surveillance camera footage for at least 30 days in order for the league to ensure protocol compliance. Players and staff have to sit at least 10 feet apart now while eating at the team facilities, and groups of more than three people are prohibited from meeting outside of team activities for any reason.

Updates come after first coronavirus storm

The new protocols come near what appears to be the end of the league’s first coronavirus outbreak.

The Tennessee Titans didn’t play in Week 4 due to a major outbreak, which saw 10 players and 10 staffers test positive. The New England Patriots and the Chiefs each had players land on the COVID-19/reserve list, which delayed their game by a single day, and the Vikings shut down their practice facility for several days after learning of the Titans’ outbreak just hours after their matchup.

Though the NFL’s new protocols won’t curb the spread of the virus completely — that’s nearly impossible to do outside of a true bubble environment — the stricter rules will certainly help teams be able to finish the season safely.

And if they don’t follow the new rules, the league has shown it’s not afraid to crack down.

Head coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid’s iconic face shield may have seen its last game. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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