The NFL and the players' union sent a planner to the league's 32 teams Monday outlining procedures for the full reopening of their practice facilities, which were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a lengthy four-part memo to the clubs written by commissioner Roger Goodell and approved by the NFL Players Association, the league described a health and safety protocol focused on screening, testing, infection prevention and treatment for COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — including response for new infections. Also included were instructions on proper facility access, cleaning and disinfecting, physical distancing, hygiene, health education and medical services, food preparation, supplies and team travel.
No timetable has been set for the return of most players to team complexes — only players rehabilitating injuries have been allowed to enter the buildings — but this is the next major step toward allowing all players back in club facilities.
Goodell ordered all of those facilities closed in late March, and the league has taken small steps toward reopening them. Last week, coaching staffs were approved to return, but only if local governmental rules allowed it.
Goodell noted the protocol for a full return was developed in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Duke's Infection Control Network and other universities.
"No set of protocols can eliminate the risk of contracting COVID-19, nor ensure that the disease itself will be mild," Goodell wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press. "And we should expect that these protocols will change as medical and scientific knowledge of the disease continues to grow. But we believe, along with the NFLPA, that these protocols offer a sound basis for bringing players back into the facilities and moving forward with our planning for the 2020 season."
Training camps are scheduled to begin in late July, with the first preseason game — the Dallas Cowboys versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame game — on Aug. 6. The NFL still plans to kick off the regular season with the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans on Sept. 10.