Thanks to a couple positives tests - one a player, one a coach - the Eagles are currently in what the NFL calls “intensive protocol,” which is a long, detailed, elaborate series of enhanced safety protocols even more stringent than the NFL’s general safety measures during this season of COVID.
The measures not only require that most meetings are held virtually, they limit the amount of time players can spend in the locker room, require masks or Oakley Faceshields not just in the building but during practice and even prohibit teams from huddling between plays at practice.
Player are even banned from taking their helmet and Faceshield off during practice within six feet of another player.
“I think the most difficult thing is the time management now,” Jalen Mills said. “Because us football players, we want to sit in the locker room, chill, talk, before meetings or practice, whatever it may be. So I think the biggest thing is staying to the protocol, knowing the times. I’m in the locker room today, I was getting ready to lift weights and (Darius) Slay walked in and was like, ‘Hey man, we only have five more minutes before we have to leave.’ It’s tedious. But we’ve got to follow them.”
Because of rain, the Eagles practiced Wednesday in their indoor Bubble, which raised another set of unique circumstances.
“We had to space out,” Mills said. “We couldn't huddle up like we usually do. We had a monitor on the side where the whole defense goes and watches the previous play and we couldn't do that. We had separate iPads. Had to wear the Oakley face guard, which is really hard to breath out of playing football. But that's also another protocol. So it was definitely a little different.”
The good news is the Eagles haven’t had an outbreak.
Lane Johnson, Jordan Mailata and Nate Gerry tested positive before training camp, Doug Pederson came down with COVID during training camp, Matt Pryor missed a game (although he never tested positive), and now safety Marcus Epps is on the COVID list, and an unidentified coach is also currently quarantined at home.
Considering what some teams have gone through, the Eagles are in very good shape as they come off the bye and get ready for the second half of the season, and the players credit the team’s thoroughness following league protocols and the players’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
“Coach Pederson said it one of the first couple days when we reported for training camp, that at some point in the season we have to be able to adapt to change,” Fletcher Cox said. “And it’s happening right now after the bye week, adapting to the change and how we’re responding to it, and I know this team right here, we all do a good job at it and protect ourselves and be ready to go.”
As soon as the Eagles received word of the new positive test on Tuesday, everybody in the organization was notified immediately and the NFL’s so-called “intensive protocols” went into effect.
“It was pretty urgent,” Cox said. “As soon as the team found out, they sent out a mass text message saying we had an immediate team meeting over something really urgent. And we got in the meeting room and they told us that we were going into the NFL intensive protocol because somebody did test positive. They listed all the rules and different things that we could and couldn't do, times where we could be in different places, where we couldn't be. So they hopped right on top of it. Definitely made me feel, personally, a lot more comfortable knowing they hopped on top of it.”
Here's a detailed look at the NFL's intensive protocols, courtesy of the league's PR department: