NFL updates COVID-19 protocols ahead of Thanksgiving

Sports

FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2021, file photo, an NFL logo is displayed on a goal post pad during an NFL preseason football game between the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions in Detroit. The NFL has instituted some policy changes to the Rooney Rule designed to further enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring practices. The rule has been expanded to require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions, and all coordinator roles. Beforehand, the requirement was to interview one minority from outside a team for openings in those positions. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

The NFL is requiring players and staff to wear masks inside team facilities regardless of vaccination status for a week starting on Thanksgiving, and they must be tested twice for COVID-19 after the holiday.

The league’s protocols were updated as a result of increasing rates of COVID-19 across the country. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger each missed a game in consecutive weeks because of COVID-19.

“This upward trend, coupled with the onset of colder weather driving individuals indoors, has resulted in an increased risk of infection among players and staff,” the league said in a memo sent to teams Tuesday and obtained by The Associated Press. “Our experts and data confirm that getting vaccinated remains our strongest defense against contracting and transmission of the virus within club facilities.”

Additional masking will not be required outdoors or in the practice bubble. Testing will take place on Monday Nov. 29 and Wednesday Dec. 1.

Also, the league is encouraging teams to offer drive-through COVID-19 testing for friends and family of players and staff if they’re visiting or staying with them for Thanksgiving. The testing should be conducted before friends and family interact with players and staff, and should be arranged at times separate from when players and staff are testing.

Teams were reminded to strictly enforce protocols at their facilities. The NFL is offering to send league staff to assist with the enforcement of the protocols at club facilities.

Last week, the NFL fined the Packers $300,000 and issued $14,650 fines to Rodgers and wide receiver Allen Lazard for violations of league and players’ union protocols.

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