INDIANAPOLIS – Another major step toward NFL normalcy has been taken.
Amid the NFL Scouting Combine, which returned to town after being derailed last year by the COVID-19 pandemic, the league and NFL Players Association sent a joint memo to all 32 teams that all COVID-19 protocols have been dropped.
That includes mandatory testing, masks being worn around team complexes, players and staff being required to wear Kinexon devices that measure the proximity and duration of time among individuals and other restrictions that have been in place for the past two years.
“Based on current encouraging trends regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19, the evolving guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control), changes to state law and based upon the counsel of our respective experts, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to suspend all aspects of the joint COVID-19 protocols, effective immediately,’’ the memo explained.
“We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of the players, coaches and staff as we have throughout the pandemic. Should there be a reason to re-impose aspects of the protocols or take other measures, we will work closely with the clubs, the NFLPA and our respective experts, and local, state and federal public health officials to continue to safeguard the health of the NFL community.’’
Teams must remain in compliance with state and local restrictions and are allowed to impose any guidelines they deem appropriate “to protect their staff and players.’’
Individuals still must monitor for symptoms, and anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must report that situation to the team and acquire a negative test before entering the team facility. A person testing positive is required to be isolated for five days after the test.
The next step might be the league restoring locker room access to the media. That hasn’t been allowed for the past two seasons.
Despite the heavy restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting disruption of the league’s routine, all 554 scheduled games – including two Super Bowls – were played over the last two years.
The Colts were hit particularly hard by COVID-19 in mid-December.
In the week 16 road trip against the Arizona Cardinals, seven players were out after positive tests: guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, guard Mark Glowinski, cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, defensive end Kemoko Turay, safety Khari Willis and wide receiver Zach Pascal.
Quarterback Carson Wentz and right tackle Braden Smith were among players testing positive early in the week prior to the week 17 home game with Las Vegas, but altered quarantine protocols allowed both to start against the Raiders.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.