The NFL and the NFL Players Association have agreed to a new set of COVID-19 guidelines for 2021 training camps and the preseason.
When players, coaches and staff arrive at their respective facilities across the league after the break that follows the end of mandatory minicamps, they'll return to find restrictions have been loosened for those who are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
The memo released to NFL clubs on Wednesday outlines the new rules, which include no mask or physical-distancing mandates and no required daily testing for vaccinated individuals. Those who are not fully vaccinated are still required to be tested every day, still have to wear a mask at their club facility and during team travel, and they must maintain many of the restrictions that have become the norm over the past year.
Daily life at practice facilities will return to close to normal for fully vaccinated individuals, who will be allowed to eat in the cafeteria with other fully vaccinated people, use the sauna and steam room and use the weight room without capacity limits, assuming those in the room are all vaccinated.
One of the other major benefits for fully vaccinated individuals is that if they are exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they will not be labeled as a high-risk close contact, which carries a five-day quarantine period. Last year, this quarantine period was required for anyone who was deemed a high-risk close contact, resulting in players, coaches and staff occasionally being ruled ineligible to take part in or attend games.
Those who are not vaccinated will still face a mandatory quarantine period if they are designated a high-risk close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19.
The document also sheds light some other areas of normalcy that may return in 2021 in some capacity. Coaches who are fully vaccinated no longer are required to wear a face covering at games, halftime shows may return as long as the talent enters the field through a tunnel separate from the ones the teams use and vaccinated individuals may meet with vaccinated family and friends during team travel.
After training camps without fans in 2020, fans will be allowed to be in attendance, but the memo says they are not allowed to interact with players and must be more than 20 feet away from Tier 1 staff, which includes players.