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What are the NFL protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup
Walter Sharp
Modified 23 Dec 2020, 10:03 IST

The 2020 NFL Season has been filled with rescheduled games and players missing time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NFL has very strict protocols for how they planned to tackle the change in the world. Although games have been rescheduled and players have missed games, it is still running as smoothly as possible.

Let's take a deep look at how the NFL has implemented its COVID-19 protocols in the 2020 NFL Season.

Mask requirements and post-game interactions

As of Thanksgiving, the NFL has implemented a more strict set of rules when it comes to the COVID-19 protocols. Any players that are on the sidelines without a helmet on must wear a mask or double-layered gaiter. This goes for players who are coming off the field from playing and players who will not enter the game.

NFL coaches also have to abide by these rules. NFL coaches who choose the option of wearing a face shield must still wear a mask or a double-layered gaiter. Every coach on the sideline must follow this protocol.

After an NFL game ends we tend to see players shake hands, talk and exchange uniforms. While doing these after the NFL game players must wear masks. Each NFL franchise is to enforce these rules to their players and coaching staff. NFL League Officials have made franchises aware that they should have one to two people to enforce the rules on the sidelines.

Player travel, masks on team buses/planes and club facility staffing


The NFL has also put a limit on how many players can travel to each game this season. Each team can only have 62 players travel to each game. To ensure that this is followed, the NFL has made it to where teams must sent a list of all players who are traveling to the game. This list must be turned in by 4pm Eastern Time on the day before the game. If there is a player that is not on the list they may not attend or play in that game.

As of Week 13 of the 2020 NFL Season, all NFL players, coaches and trainers must wear an N95 or KN95 mask while on the plane or bus during travel. On November 30th, 2020 all the club facilities will be limited to who can enter. The facilities will be open to essential football personnel, essential support personnel, other medical and special services and the media will be limited.

For anyone that is not apart of these categories must work remote from home, or at a facility that is housing players and coaches. The personnel that is working remote cannot come into contact with any essential football personnel at any time. NFL has made it aware that teams must enforce these rule changes as soon as possible.

Facility and Gameday changes that have been made


Throughout the 2020 NFL Season, there has been many adjustments to the COVID-19 protocol. All these adjustments are set into place to ensure that all players, coaches, personnel and officials are all safe. This has lowered the amount of individuals who are allowed at NFL games.

The NFL has divided the stadiums into three different tiers. The tiers are based off the roles and responsibilities of the players or staff. Lets take a look how the three tiers are broken down.

  • Tier 1: Player and personnel with direct access to players
  • Tier 2: Personnel in close proximity to players
  • Tier 3: Personnel whose job responsibilities do not require close proximity to players

Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 are restricted areas that are secured at all times. Before anyone enters these two tiers they must be checked to ensure they belong there. The NFL has made it mandatory that all NFL locker rooms have plexiglass shields in between each players locker. They have also made it to where meeting rooms have to be set up at the social distance of six feet between each player or coach.


For the NFL Franchises that are not having fans due to the COVID-19 protocols have pre-recorded crowd noises. These crowd noises must be played at 70 decibels and it will be monitored by the NFL Football Operations team. NFL referees have been scheduled by where they live. The NFL has assigned referees depending on how close they live to each game. This is so that they can limit the travel time for referees.

Officials are also doing something that we have not seen in three seasons. 2020 NFL officials are looking under the hood at replays again. This limits the amount of people on the field. NFL officials also have the option to use an electronic whistle that can fit their hands and be activated by using a thumb button.

Testing, Treatment and Contact Tracing Technology

All NFL players, coaches and essential staff must undergo daily COVID-19 testing throughout the season. Adding to the daily testing, the NFL players, coaches and essential personnel are screened every time they enter the facility. The screening consists of temperature check and COVID-19 questionnaire. This is to ensure the safety of all players, coaches and essential personnel.

The results of the COVID-19 tests are given within 24 hours. If an NFL player, coach or essential personnel tests positive for COVID-19 they must wait ten days before returning. In addition to the ten days they have to record two negative COVID-19 tests that are 24 hours apart.


Players, personnel and officials must all wear a recording device on their wrists. This recording device will collect the proper data to make sure that players are socially distancing themselves from others. In addition to the social distance, these tracking devices will collect data if the player has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

How has this worked for the 2020 NFL Season

So far the NFL has had success with their protocols. We have seen bumps in the road which is expected. The NFL has not had to delay there season since it has started. Players have not had to enter a bubble to ensure a game can be played.

NFL protocols have been set and successful. The 2020 NFL Playoffs are approaching and it is going to narrow down the amount of players needed to be tested. The biggest fear for the NFL is that the pandemic will not slow down. This would cause the biggest games of the year being without fans, which would cost the NFL a ton of money in ticket sales.

All in all the NFL has implemented a successful set of rules and have made it to the NFL Playoffs and have a good opportunity to finish a full season.

Published 23 Dec 2020, 10:03 IST
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