NFL Changes COVID Protocols

Mask mandate is back after bad week for infections
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2021 7:35 PM CST
Updated Dec 16, 2021 4:15 PM CST
Outbreaks Affect Leagues, and Outcome of Games
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield walks off the field Sunday in Cleveland.   (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

Update: The NFL is adjusting its COVID-19 protocols in the face of increasing infections. Some of the changes could provide relief to teams that are shorthanded after outbreaks this week, ESPN reports. The policies, negotiated by the league and the players association, call for returning to a mask mandate in team facilities, remote-only meetings, limits on the number of people in weight rooms at a time, and curbs on activities outside team campuses. Meals will be carryout only, and visitors won't travel with teams, per the AP. New rules will enable vaccinated players who are asymptomatic to get back on the field. Our original story from Dec. 15 follows:

COVID-19 cases are up across the board in the winter professional sports leagues, and changes are on the way. The NHL, which is in discussions with the players union, plans to bring back tighter protocols, including daily testing, the AP reports. The league is trying to get a full season in while still taking a break for the Winter Olympics in February, despite a rash of COVID-forced postponements. Ontario is cutting capacity in its two NHL arenas back to 50%. The Calgary Flames have had four games postponed and now list 17 personnel on the COVID list, including their coach, Darryl Sutter.

The NBA and its players union are doing the same thing, per the AP, also considering resuming daily coronavirus tests. As of Wednesday evening, the NBA had at least 33 players and two head coaches in its health and safety protocols. "I've got a feeling we may go back to some of the stuff we did last year, which was clearly no fun," said Doc Rivers, coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. The NFL is finishing up its worst three-day run of the pandemic, with about 100 positive tests since Monday. Commissioner Roger Goodell said there were no plans to postpone Cleveland's game against the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday, per the AP, though the Browns have put 18 players, including half their 22 starters, on the COVID-19 reserve list.

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When teams have to play short-handed, the expected competitive no longer exists, per the Wall Street Journal. The Browns' quarterback, Baker Mayfield, is one of the players who tested positive this week. With the leagues mostly deciding to play on, they've entered a stage involving lopsided rosters, whatever the effect on the outcomes of games. The NFL told teams that in July, writing that "absent medical considerations or government directives, games will not be postponed or rescheduled simply to avoid roster issues." It's true outside the US, too: Tottenham and Leicester City asked that their game Thursday be postponed because of an outbreak, but the English Premier League decided they'll play. (Read more COVID-19 stories.)

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