Kickoff to 2020 NFL Season
By Sachin Kalahasti
The NFL began its first matchup of the season on Thursday, September 10, with concerns coming from fans around the world. Everything going on, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the “Black Lives Matter” protests for the recent shooting of Jacob Blake, has created a lot of changes that have been implemented into this season.
The NFL first announced that teams were still required to hold their respective training camps, since the season was nearing. However, players, coaches, and staff members were also required to keep a six-feet distance from one another. They also announced that some areas have restrictions, which were practice fields, locker rooms, athletic and medical rooms, meeting rooms, and weight rooms. According to ESPN, each member of the team will be “classified as Tier 1 (players and other people who need at least 10 minutes of daily access to restricted areas) or Tier 2 (people who need periodic access to restricted areas).”
They also announced that teams should make sure to accommodate fewer players in specific areas. For instance, the NFL gave instructions for teams to create one-way traffic through hallways in their team facilities. They also require weight rooms to only hold up to 15 or fewer players at a time. The idea of virtual meetings is also being implemented and if teams choose to do in-person meetings between players and the coaching staff, they are required to have 20 people max. Lastly, they require all players to wear masks, with the option to not wear one during their assigned team/individual workouts.
Unlike the NBA and the NHL, the NFL has decided not to make a “bubble” to house teams around the league. Instead, they have given the option to players to either stay at their team-sponsored hotel or their homes. The NFL also announced that teams are “required to hold a safety information session with family members, among other education efforts designed to teach employees how to minimize risk of infection outside the facility”. This is an important issue, since the NBA and the NHL have been able to minimize the risk of infections among people with their “bubbles”, so it will be really interesting with how the NFL is going to manage with these protocols.
The league also decided to partner with third-party firm IQVIA to monitor if someone has been in close contact with any other individual after being tested positive for the virus. The league also stated that they will require radio-frequency identification tracking devices located on the shoulder pads of the players to determine if they were able to maintain six feet of distance with the positive-tested player. Sources from ESPN also stated that in the event of team activity, it is required to wear a Kinexon proximity recording tracking device, which would help “find the close contacts of someone who tested positive.” Any players that break any of these requirements that could likely spread the virus will face any disciplinary actions from the league office.
There is much anticipation on how the season will unfold with all these newly implemented requirements. Only time will tell if the NFL will go smoothly without having any problems with their scheduled games or they will be forced to postpone games as players test positive for COVID-19.