The NFL is implementing heightened protocols around Thanksgiving amid rising cases of COVID-19 across the country, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. That includes mandatory masking and testing all players and staff twice after the holiday, while encouraging clubs to offer testing for visiting friends and family.
The league announced the measures in a Tuesday memo to all 32 clubs, Pelissero added. The temporary protocols will involve a mask mandate indoors for all players and staff, regardless of vaccination status, between Nov. 25-Dec. 1. All organizational members will be tested the Monday and Wednesday after the holiday.
NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said on a conference call Wednesday that the league is coming off its highest number of positive COVID-19 cases all season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
The recent data is one reason behind the enhanced protocols, Rapoport adds, but there is no indication of an uncontrolled spread like last year.
Late in 2020, the NFL put all teams in intensive protocols to guard against an outbreak that could have jeopardized last season finishing on time. Through 10 weeks of 2021, no games have been rescheduled due to COVID.
Tuesday's notice reminded that teams must enforce off-field restrictions on unvaccinated players and that violations "may result in discipline against the club if it is found that the club has failed to enforce these Protocols." Per the memo, clubs are required to have video camera surveillance of their weight room and cafeteria areas. The NFL has been "periodically reviewing" surveillance footage for in-facility violations.
On players such as Ben Roethlisberger, who self-reported his COVID-19 symptoms and was effectively ruled out last Sunday, Sills said the Steelers quarterback's decision was exemplary, according to Rapoport.
"That's a tough step to take and reflects a very mature, thoughtful leadership role," said Sills. "It's what we encourage everybody to do."