The NFL’s doors will swing open for business once again on Tuesday.
Actually, replace “swing open” with “crack slightly allowing just a few to enter.”
Good. More accurate. But it’s an incremental start! And that’s worth something. It just won’t be happening in Foxboro.
Because even though the league has pledged to leave no team behind in its restart following the COVID-19 shutdown, you need to read the fine print to best understand what the league is allowing and what individual states (i.e. Massachusetts) are allowing.
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So here are five things you should know about the restart.
FACILITIES NEVER TOTALLY SHUT DOWN
Though coaches, players, executives, office staff, marketing, media relations, etc. have not been in team facilities for the past two months, medical personnel have been allowed to continue working in brick-and-mortar buildings here in Massachusetts as essential workers. So players who were either on injured reserve in 2019 or had injuries that needed either offseason surgery or specific rehab attention were allowed to be treated by team trainers and physicians.
THE PATRIOTS AREN’T PART OF THE NFL RESTART
Beginning Tuesday, “Phase One” of the NFL’s restart allows 50 percent of a team’s staff in the facility at one time and no more than 75 people.
But teams must yield (obviously) to state and local authorities and Massachusetts isn’t reopening until next Monday so there will be no additional staff allowed.
In Massachusetts, the cap is going to be 50 people in the facility so the Patriots will open a week later and have fewer people allowed in.
Pro Football Talk obtained the league memo detailing the requirements for each team prior to opening. That includes each team having Infection Control Officers who will “take a required training program.” Monday night.
According to NFL Network’s Judy Battista, 22 of the league’s 32 teams will be able to reopen if they choose to this week. We’ll have Battista on Tom Curran’s Patriots Talk Podcast Tuesday to discuss the reopening.
COACHES AND NON-REHABBING PLAYERS AREN’T ALLOWED
Because some states have been hit harder than others and are responding differently across the country, the league wants to be sure teams in fast-opening states aren’t getting a leg up on the teams who can’t open as quickly. The memo addresses this saying, “No members of the coaching staff may return to the facility. This is important to ensure equity among all 32 clubs.
Clubs may otherwise decide which employees may return to the facility, which may include members of the personnel, football operations or football administration staff, equipment staff, medical staff, and nutritionists. If the strength and conditioning coach is currently participating in player rehabilitation, he may continue that work in the facility. Otherwise, the strength and conditioning coach may not return until the rest of the coaching staff is allowed to return.”
PATRIOTS FACE UNIQUE SITUATION
Gillette Stadium doesn’t just house the Patriots. The Revolution are based there and are working out. Various other Kraft-owned enterprises – Kraft Sports Group and International Forest Products to name two – are also working out of Gillette. So establishing how to accurately count the 50 employees allowed into a facility in a place as sprawling as a stadium is something to be worked out. It’s not that different from whatever rules would apply in any office building where separate businesses are all under the same roof.
NO GO FOR BELICHICK
Even though Bill Belichick has final football say over personnel and wears a personnel hat, he isn’t going to be allowed in through that loophole. Other teams with coaches who double as team GMs – Houston’s Bill O’Brien, for instance – face the same restriction. Nick Caserio, the Director of Player Personnel, would be allowed in.