The NFL still is committed to playing the 2020 season as scheduled.
But precautions must be taken for football to happen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell outlined those precautions Monday in a memo to teams detailing an exhaustive list of protocols they must follow when players return to team facilities.
And here we have the NFL's agreed upon protocols for players to return to team facilities. pic.twitter.com/1H9mWJepn4— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) June 8, 2020
The most notable protocols involve those enforcing "physical distancing." For example, all teams must "reconfigure" their locker rooms to provide at least six feet of space between players, while furniture in common areas must be arranged to keep players and staffers at least six feet apart to limit the spread of COVID-19.
In a joint NFL-NFLPA memo to clubs, teams will, among other things, be required to have 6 feet of space between lockers upon re-opening pic.twitter.com/z7eVvhs9fQ— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) June 8, 2020
That will be no easy task for teams like the New England Patriots, which will need to space out players at every other locker and possibly build additional lockers to meet these guidelines.
For the Patriots, the stalls in the back of the room are usually given to rookies who double up during training camp. Those then become the practice squad lockers during the season. That likely won't work this year https://t.co/8ZOc9dZQA5— Alex Barth (@RealAlexBarth) June 8, 2020
Additionally, players must work out in groups of smaller than 15 people upon their return and continue holding virtual meetings instead of in-person meetings whenever possible.
The Patriots have been conducting virtual meetings for several months -- coaches were just allowed to return to team facilities last Friday -- and it sounds like those will continue in some capacity for the near future.
So, when will players return? Training camps still are set for late July, but it's possible some players could be allowed back at team facilities in late June, per NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.
No dates set yet and no minicamps expected, but the NFL and NFLPA are discussing the possibility of certain players -- such as rookies, and veterans who changed teams and need physicals -- returning to club facilities on a limited basis before June 26, per sources.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 8, 2020
These protocols add yet another wrinkle to what's been an unprecedented offseason in New England headlined by Tom Brady's departure. The Patriots now face the challenge of integrating a new starting quarterback in Jarrett Stidham and several assistant coaches in new roles -- all while staying far enough apart.
Patriots' locker room could (literally) look different when players return originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston