As COVID-19 infection rates continue to rise across the country, the NFL is tightening up its protocols to protect players and staff.
Starting Saturday, all 32 teams including the Seattle Seahawks will operate in the league’s intensive protocol, which was previously reserved for teams that had positive tests or has been exposed to a team with positive tests.
Requirements under the intensive protocols include virtual team meetings and face masks being worn in the facility at all times, including during practice.
More details on the intensive protocols include:
- Grab and go style meal service in team cafeterias.
- All meetings must be held virtually unless they can be held outdoors or indoors with a pre-approved plan from the NFL and NFLPA.
- Each player can spend no more than 15 minutes in the locker room, per session.
- Masks or league-approved Oakley face shields must be accessible for players at all times, including when practicing.
- When receiving “PPE” medical treatment, both the player and doctor must wear a face shield and mask during treatment.
- No more than 10 players, and five coaches can be in the weight room at one time.
The protocol also prohibits teams or players from getting together outside the facility with Thanksgiving coming up next week.
“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in the memo, per NFL.com columnist Judy Battista. “Because we have a highly sophisticated program of daily testing, we know when the virus enters our facilities, which underscores the importance of contact tracing and other steps to minimize close contacts within a facility. Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time. We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”
28 of the league’s 32 teams have already entered the intensive protocols at some point this season. Seattle has yet to have a positive case for COVID-19 since daily testing began at the start of the regular season.
"I'm really proud of where we are right now. We made it through all this time and our guys have done a fantastic job of toeing the line," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "This is such a demanding process that they're involved with to go along with being a professional athlete and there's a lot of diligence, it's the word that keeps coming back, you just have to stick to it and stay with it well."
Carroll said he has yet to see the NFL's new COVID guidelines, but the Seahawks are committed to complying to the league's latest measures.
"What I understand though is the virtual aspect of our meeting times and stuff will be amplified," Carroll said. "We'll step up with that portion of our stuff. We'll have less interaction here in the facility, except for walkthroughs and practice and so it's not a problem for us. We just have to have our timeframes. We've already had it worked out in anticipation that this could happen and we may adjust some as we see how it goes, but we have a real thought how we'll do it.
"We're going to follow to the letter of the law and continue to really have an attitude that we can pull this thing off, and I think the mentality of it is as important as anything because it has to carry over into all aspects and all facets of everybody's lives."
That doesn't mean Seattle hasn't had a few close calls, though. After the Seahawks played the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10, the Rams announced a player had tested positive and was self-quarantining.
Following Seattle’s Week 8 victory over the 49ers, wide receiver Kendrick Bourne tested positive for COVID-19, but the Portland native has produced both positive and negative test results over the past few weeks.
Seattle remains one of the NFL's lone teams to produce zero positive tests. The Seahawks host the Arizona Cardinals for Thursday Night Football in Week 11.