The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 regular season, which include weekly testing for fully vaccinated players and staff members, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Monday.
The weekly testing for vaccinated players and staff is an increase from every two weeks. Players with vulnerable cohabitants can elect to undergo daily testing.
Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated players will continue to test every day, including off days, prior to entering the club facility and may not go inside the facility or interact with each other while awaiting test results.
With preseason games done, many head coaches are expected to have several upcoming days off. However, due to the daily testing, unvaccinated players will be unable to travel.
The NFLPA sent a letter to players Monday night in which it illustrated that a move to weekly testing -- rather than daily -- "does not sufficiently solve for the real risk of virus transmission going undetected inside a Club facility," Pelissero reported. Thus, while the union did not oppose the change, it will continue to negotiate.
One unchanged rule is the high-risk close contact protocol. Fully vaccinated individuals will not be designated as high-risk close contacts, but can be held to daily testing for five days. Therefore, only unvaccinated players are at risk of missing games without a positive test.
Among other notable changes:
- Effective immediately, fully vaccinated club medical staff, strength and conditioning coaches and equipment staff are required to wear masks when providing treatment, fitting equipment or otherwise directly dealing with players inside the club facility (excluding outdoors).
- Players who are not fully vaccinated will not be required to wear masks at outdoor practices or walkthroughs, but face coverings are still mandatory indoors and in weight rooms.
- Updates for traveling include a maximum of 75 non-player staff members in a traveling party, no public transportation, no private transportation for unvaccinated players and staff, and all members of the traveling party, whether fully vaccinated or not, must wear masks.