At a time when many American states are moving to reopen, the NFL is moving to reopen team facilities.
Wednesday’s memo to all teams from Commissioner Roger Goodell attaches a multi-tiered plan for getting the league’s teams back to work. The process begins with “Phase 1,” which contemplates up to 75 non-player employees (50 percent of the workforce) on any single day, if permitted by state or local regulations. Phase 1 will begin at some point after May 15.
The league has identified general principles for the Phase 1 reopening, starting with obtaining consent from local and statement governmental officials. This strongly implies that teams in locations that permit re-opening won’t be prohibited from re-opening if one or more other teams operate in communities that won’t allow it. If so, that’s a significant break from the current position that, if one team can’t open, no teams can open.
Before the Phase 1 reopening, teams also must create an “Infection Response Team” that will track any employee infections and conduct contact tracing within the facility and arrange for appropriate disinfection of potentially infected sites. Teams also must have an “Infection Control Officer,” who will serve as the “first point of contact for any club employee with new symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 infection . . . exposure to a known COVID-19 infected patient, or the development of new medical condition that confers a high risk of complications from COVID-19 infection.”
“We are actively working on the next phase of reopening, which will involve both greater numbers of staff and players as well,” Goodell explains. “We are actively working with the NFLPA on the protocols that would apply to player access to facilities and expect to have those protocols developed fairly soon.”
It remains likely that facilities won’t fully open in time for any type of on-field offseason program. But the NFL has begun to take the steps that will be critical to the eventual hosting of training camp and other preparations for the 2020 season, which the league fully intends to conduct.