National Football League players will likely be banned from exchanging jerseys with each other or having any postgame interactions within six feet of each other this season as part of newly developed health protocols due to Covid-19.
The newly developed gameday protocols, formed by the league and NFL Players Association though not yet finalized, are set to ban the popular postgame traditions among players. Also part of the new rules:
• A requirement for all sideline personnel besides players and coaches to wear masks.
• No sharing of personal items such as cups or towels in the sideline area.
• Staggered schedules for teams arriving to stadiums on gameday. Each team will also stay in a hotel the night before games.
• Temperature checks for all personnel entering a stadium.
The jersey exchange measure drew quick derision among players, particularly given the inherent nature of the collision sport they play.
“This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell,” tweeted Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers cornerback. “Players can engage in a full-contact game and do it safely. However, it is deemed unsafe for them to exchange jerseys after said game.”
Added Ben Watson, former NFL tight end, in his own tweet, “Those 3.5 hours of physical, full-contact, revenue generating player interactions are safe. Those five minutes of post-game non-revenue generating interactions are not. How nonsensical is that?”
The new gameday protocols are separate from broader testing and screening measures that are still being finalized between the league and union. The policies are intended to be in place for both the preseason and regular season.
Team training camps are set to begin around July 28. But it remains unclear what the preseason schedule will look like. The league is proposing a reduction in exhibition games from four per team to two. The union, conversely, is seeking to wipe out the preseason schedule entirely with the aim of helping preserve player health and safety amid the pandemic.
JC Tretter, Cleveland Browns center and NFLPA president, earlier this week said the league is “unwilling to prioritize player safety and believes that the virus will bend to football.”