- The NFL will not have any type of ‘bubble’ to protect players and coaches from the COVID-19 virus during the postseason.
- This decision was made in consultation with league and NFLPA medical experts.
- Daily COVID-19 testing will continue throughout the postseason.
Despite playing fast and loose with the COVID-19 pandemic relative to the way the NHL, NBA and MLB approach things the NFL isn’t going to change their tune with the playoffs coming up. Not only will there not be a league-wide ‘bubble’ instituted by the NFL individual teams will be prohibited from taking similar steps locally.
More specifically, the league informed teams that they cannot require that players and staff stay at a hotel during the players other than the night prior to the game. According to the league, this decision was made based on a recommendation of NFL and NFL Players Association medical experts based on COVID-19 testing data. The party line is that the NFL and NFLPA are pleased with the numbers related to the COVID-19 pandemic and ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. Of course the chances that either side would admit it if testing *wasn’t* working are slim and none. Furthermore, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, has been a vociferous critic of the ‘bubble’ concept.
In all fairness, there is some logic to this point suggesting that there’s a more significant risk of infection with a bunch of people isolated together in a hotel than with the status quo:
“This decision is based upon an analysis of the frequency of positive cases in the league compared to the risk of significant spread among players and staff gathered for an extensive period of time at one hotel.”
The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero was the first to report on the league’s COVID-19 policy for the postseason:
In addition to the ‘no bubble’ announcement, the league made some changes to the COVID-19 return to play protocols as CBS Sports reports:
Starting this week, an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is cleared to return to interaction with the team and participate on game day will be permitted to play. This individual, however, will not be permitted to travel or interact with anyone on the team until his isolation period has ended. Additionally, any asymptomatic individual who tests positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to return until 10 days have passed since receiving a positive test result, and after appropriate consultation, which includes a notification of NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills, determines that the individual may return.
There is also more detailed guidance on postseason testing for playoff and non-playoff bound teams:
The league’s current daily testing and protocols will continue throughout the postseason for teams that qualify for the playoffs. Teams that do not quality for the postseason will continue to remain under the league’s testing protocol for a week. After that, non-playoff teams will be free to employ their own protocols. Playoff teams will be required to use two aircrafts for travel to and from games. Players and staff members who are staying at a team-provided hotel in their local area will be required to wear a Kinexon device at all times until they return to their hotel each night.
Super Bowl 55 is still set for February 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell maintains that the plan is to get as many fans as possible into the venue though he’s unwilling to speculate how many that might be:
“I think the way we’re approaching that is we’re going to be taking that not on a day-by-day basis, but obviously the safety of our fans and the community are going to be No. 1. We will be working with public officials and the health officials to define that as we get closer to the game.”
“We’re going to try to bring as many fans as we can safely do into Raymond James Stadium, but we’ll be working with the local officials on that. … I’m not sure there’s a specific number that we are confident saying this is what it will be. But obviously our focus will be keeping them safe, whoever is there. … We will not make projections about what the current environment will be 55 days from now.”
Despite some significant outbreaks and other anxious moments the NFL has persevered and are now in the ‘home stretch’ of completing the regular season. If they’re able to get in a full NFL season and complete the playoffs in an orderly fashioned it will be an impressive accomplishment indeed.