NFL Kicks Off Plan to Reopen Team Facilities; MLS Soccer Allows Player Workouts

By Barry Wilner | May 8, 2020

The NFL has set protocols for reopening team facilities and has told the 32 teams to have them in place by May 15.

In a memo sent by Commissioner Roger Goodell and obtained Wednesday night by The Associated Press, several phases of the protocols were laid out. The first phase to deal with the coronavirus pandemic would involve a limited number of non-player personnel, initially 50% of the non-player employees (up to a total of 75) on any single day, being approved to be at the facility. But state or local regulations could require a lower number.

The individual clubs would decide which employees could return to the facility and when once facilities reopen. No players would be permitted in the facility except to continue therapy and rehabilitation for injuries that was underway when facilities were ordered closed in late March by Goodell.

Four MLS Teams Allow Individual Workouts

By Tim Booth and Anne M. Peterson, AP Sports Writers

Four Major League Soccer teams took the first small step toward returning to play Wednesday by allowing players to use team training fields for individual workouts. Sporting Kansas City, Atlanta United, Orlando City and Inter Miami let players in for vigorously controlled voluntary workouts on the first day they were permitted by the league.

Nashville, Real Salt Lake, LAFC, Houston and Portland are among the league’s 26 teams that plan to start Thursday, with more lined up next week.

In Orlando, the entire roster showed up. “Of course it’s the first step but we have a long way,” said Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra. “This is the beginning. We are training alone, and then we will have small groups and then we hope soon we can train with the full group.”

Other North American sports are poised to follow MLS. The NBA is opening facilities for small groups Friday in places where local restrictions are eased. NASCAR is bringing back live racing at Darlington Raceway on May 17 without fans in attendance. UFC will host the first of three shows without fans in Jacksonville, Florida, starting Saturday. The National Women’s Soccer League has also started to allow individual workouts.

MLS suspended the season because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, closing all team facilities but asking players to remain in market with their teams. A league-wide moratorium on group and team training remains in effect through May 15 and it’s unclear when the season might resume.

When MLS announced Friday that individual workouts would be allowed, it required teams to get league approval before starting. Many haven’t completed the process yet. Numerous other teams are in areas still under stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of COVID-19, or are awaiting approval from local health authorities before moving forward with their plans.

MLS protocols for the individual workouts include restricting facilities to essential staff, disinfection of all equipment after each session, screening measures including temperature checks, and staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, as well as designated parking that ensures proper distancing.

Players are still not allowed access to indoor facilities, such as locker rooms. They must also wear personal protective equipment such as masks upon arriving and departing from the fields, while staff will be required to use such equipment at all times. Staff must maintain a distance of 10 feet from players at all times.

AP Sports Writers Tim Reynolds in Miami, Paul Newberry in Atlanta, Joe Kay in Cincinnati and Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this report.

“While these protocols have been carefully developed and reflect best practices,” Goodell wrote, “they can also be adapted and supplemented to ensure compliance with any state and local public health requirements.”

Goodell noted that the league is actively working on the next phase of reopening, which will involve both more staffers, and players. He said the players’ union is also being consulted on these steps. Those protocols are not yet fully developed.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s medical director, will speak with each team physician and the infection control officer to discuss implementation and medical aspects of the protocols.

The step-by-step requirements are:

  • Local and state government officials must consent to reopening.
  • The team must implement all operational guidelines set by the league to minimize the risk of virus transmission among employees.
  • Each club must acquire adequate amounts of needed supplies as prescribed by the league.
  • An Infection Response Team with a written plan for newly diagnosed coronavirus cases. –An Infection Control Officer to oversee all aspects of the implementation of the listed guidelines.
  • Each employee who returns to work at the club facility must receive COVID-19 safety and hygiene training prior to using the facility, and agree to report health information to the ICO.
  • The response team must consist of a local physician with expertise in common infectious disease principles; the team physician can fill that role. Also on the response team will be the infection control officer, the team’s head athletic trainer; the team physician, if he or she is not serving as the local physician; the human resources director; the team’s chief of security; its mental health clinician or someone with equivalent clinical expertise; and a member of the club’s operations staff such as the facility manager.

The league also is establishing workplace protocols that require face coverings unless a person is in a closed office. The orders also stress minimum contact, sufficient distancing, the gradual and phased return to in-person work, and continued “telework” and remote meetings to reduce the number of people at the facility. That includes adjusted hours and even shifts across all employees.

Business travel is discouraged unless essential. Visitors and service providers on site will be limited and there will be no direct contact with fans — no retail activity or in- person ticket sales.

Employees, including players, of course, will be encouraged to take their temperature routinely at home before heading to the team facility and to remain at home if their temperature is elevated. There will be daily screenings for all employees reporting to work, as well as visitors, contractors, and service providers who enter the club facility.

“We will continue to work in a deliberate and thoughtful way to plan for the 2020 season, including with (Thursday night’s) schedule release,” Goodell said, “and we will be prepared to address any contingencies as they arise.”

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