With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the NFL season, the league is regularly updating its pandemic protocols in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
One of the issues under constant scrutiny is the use of face masks and shields worn by coaches on the sidelines. The NFL last week discouraged the use of face shields.
At least two head coaches in Week 5 challenged those guidelines — Los Angeles Chargers’ Anthony Lynn and Kansas City Chiefs’ Andy Reid.
Reid, who’s become known for his use of a face shield, continued to wear one Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Lynn, meanwhile, sported a face shield on the sideline Monday night against the New Orleans Saints.
Anthony Lynn’s face shield and goggles are 🔥 pic.twitter.com/gcsn4SOFEc
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) October 13, 2020
Did Lynn, Reid violate NFL’s mask protocol?
The NFL mandated last week that a face shield does not meet the league’s stance requiring face masks at team facilities.
But that memo only addressed face shields under the league’s “Facility Protocol.” Under a “Game Day” protocol heading, the memo stated that “all individuals in the bench area, except for active players, must wear masks at all times.”
The memo did not address whether a face shield met the definition of “mask” in those circumstances. So it was left up to interpretation.
The league sent a memo on Monday that attempted to clarify its gameday stance on face shields.
“A face shield may be worn in addition to, but not in lieu of masks or double-layered gaiters,” the memo reads. “However, play callers are exempt from this requirement and may wear a face shield alone, although they are strongly encouraged to wear either a mask or a double-layer gaiter in addition to the face shield.”
So coaches can wear face shields on the sideline, but they must be accompanied by face masks or double-layer neck gaiters. Unless they’re play callers.
Again — there’s ambiguity here.
Was Reid in violation on Sunday? He can certainly argue that he wasn’t per last week’s memo. He was seen wearing a shield on gameday, not at practice.
Was Lynn in violation on Monday? The new memo arrived shortly before kickoff, so he could certainly reasonably argue that he didn’t see it.
And if he did, is he a “play caller?” Shane Steichen is the Chargers offensive coordinator and presumably the primary play caller in Los Angeles. But if Lynn, who has an offensive background, calls one play on offense, would he qualify as a “play caller” per the league’s policy?
The NFL could make this a lot simpler
If this all sounds like ridiculous parsing, it’s because it is. And it’s something the NFL could eliminate by expressly prohibiting face shields.
If the league’s medical advisers are telling the NFL that face shields don’t protect against the spread of the coronavirus, then that’s exactly what it should do.
Otherwise, it gives the impression that it’s not taking the pandemic as seriously as it should.
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