ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos will begin to take steps to reopen UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field at Mile High, according to a memo from President and CEO Joe Ellis to Broncos employees.
Ellis sent the email Saturday morning following a memo from Commissioner Roger Goodell to NFL teams outlining that clubs could reopen their facilities beginning May 19 under certain guidelines.
"As we discussed during our virtual town halls this past week, things can change very quickly with the current environment that we are navigating along with the 31 other teams around the league," Ellis wrote.
The organization will spend the week of May 18 implementing safety and sanitary measures at both facilities. The following week, the Broncos will begin to welcome back a small number of employees to both locations. Though coaches and players are not permitted to return to team facilities, members of the team's personnel department will return along with other designated employees.
"While we are one of the teams eligible to return under our conditions here in Colorado, we are not going to rush this important process," Ellis wrote.
In the week ahead of the memo, Ellis met with more than 250 employees across eight hour-long town hall meetings via Zoom to explain the organization's plan for the coming months.
According to the league's memo, no more than 50 percent of the team's staff is eligible to return to work, and the combined number of individuals at both locations cannot exceed 75 people. No members of the coaching staff will be able to return in the first phase of the reopening, as the NFL seeks to maintain competitive balance.
Strength and conditioning coaches who were previously assisting injured players with rehab will be able to enter the facility, otherwise they too must remain home. No players — other than those currently rehabbing injuries — may return to team facilities.
In the memo, Goodell said he expects additional staff — which will "likely" include coaches — should be able to return to facilities "in a relatively short time."
Denver was eligible to reopen both facilities to employees on May 19, but the Broncos have chosen to spend an extra week to ensure the proper safety measures are implemented.
Ellis wrote in his memo that the "vast majority" of Broncos employees will continue to work from home through at least the end of May, but designated employees will return to the team's offices on May 25.
"It is important to note that in this current "Phase 1" of reopening, coaches and players are still not permitted in any teams' facilities for competitive balance reasons," Ellis wrote. "With so many employees directly tied to supporting the coaches and players in various roles, this was another factor in our decision to not rush our return back to the office."
While Ellis said the Broncos will not rush the process, they hope to operate in a safe manner during Phase 1 and gradually welcome back more employees soon.
"The hope around the league is that Phase 1 of reopening demonstrates our ability to operate in a safe manner, allowing more staff (including coaches) to gradually return to the office soon," Ellis wrote. "Although there is currently no set timeline for when this next phase of expanded facility access could begin, we should remain prepared in the event that it occurs in the very near future."
As the Broncos prepare to reopen, they will be distributing company-provided face coverings to employees and also have employees partake in online training materials before returning to the office.
The Broncos will also review their Infection Response Plan, one of the league's requirements for reopening, ahead of May 25. The plan, among other elements, designates Head Athletic Trainer Steve "Greek" Antonopulos and Executive Vice President of Human Resources Nancy Svoboda as the team's league-required Infection Control Officers. The Broncos' COVID-19 Task Force, headed by Vice President of Strategic Iniatives Brittany Bowlen, crafted the Infection Response Plan to send to the league.
"For now, our focus will remain on making sure UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field at Mile High are ready for your return with the appropriate safety measures in place," Ellis wrote.
The NFL will continue to work with the NFLPA and a medical team led by Dr. Allen Sills to create a plan for players to return to facilities as early as June.
According to the NFL, teams may have members of the personnel, football operations, equipment, medical and nutrition staffs return to work during Phase 1 of reopening. Members of other departments may also return, so long as the plan follows the outlined recommendation.
All teams may only open their facilities if permitted by current local government regulations.
Colorado's safer-at-home policies allow the Broncos to reopen their facilities with certain regulations.
"Thank you for your flexibility as we adjust to this fluid situation, and we will be sure to keep you updated in the coming weeks," Ellis wrote. "… I'm looking forward to welcoming you back to UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field at Mile High soon."