It is finally time for the NFL season to begin with the season opener being played on Thursday night in Kansas City. As the NFL gears up for this start, many new coronavirus protocols have been put into place. Some of the obvious ones are the absence of fans, no preseason, and a shortened and lighter training camp that used ease athletes back into play. The NFL released a number protocols that are in effect this year that we all need to know about to strive for a successful and safe season. Knowing that this season is weirder than anything we have seen before, we have gathered a list of some of the smaller, but still very important Covid-19 protocols.
2020 will be a mostly fanless year. This is information we have figured since March and confirmed from the league this summer. The main goal of the NFL this season is to finish out the year while remaining as safe as possible. Without fans, the chances of a Covid outbreak is drastically lessened. This season will have some weird and wacky protocols that you might never have imagined would be necessary to safely play football. These set of guidelines are subject to change as the season progresses, but will at least be effect through the remainder of Week 1.
In order to keep as few people in the stadiums during the games, mascots and cheerleaders will not be in attendance at the start of this season. Although there are no fans to entertain, teams are going to try their best to include their mascots throughout their team activities. Some teams such as the San Francisco 49ers will have their cheerleaders perform a routine at the plaza entrances of Levi’s Stadium during the team’s online pregame shows, according to SFGate.com.
The tradition of handshakes and jersey swaps will be no longer in the start of the 2o2o season. According to the NFL game-day protocol, “Home and away teams are prohibited from post-game interactions within 6 feet of one another.” This eliminates any handshakes and the always exciting jersey swap and signing that players have made a tradition in recent years.
The coin toss may look different this year with only one member from each team present for the event. This person must remain 6 feet away from others and be wearing a proper face covering. There is also so talk of making the coin toss virtual or awarding the win to the home team and always allowing them to choose.
Although there will be no fans in the stadiums for most teams, the games will still be televised. Because of this, the NFL will be using previous seasons “fan noise” to replace the empty sounds the viewers would be hearing. The NFL hired local audio operators to run a sound board that can transition from five levels of fan intensity depending on the game situation. There will be individualized tracks that play songs and sounds specific to the team who is playing (fight song, chants, etc).
Electronic whistles will be used this season to replace the traditional ones. This will limit potential spread as the officials do not need to blow their own air out to activate the whistle sound. This season will be using electronic whistles that work off batteries and can be triggered by a thumb depression and emits a sound of about 100 decibels. Some coaches have been using them in practice during training camp. Officials can choose to use the traditional whistles, but they must be used with a face mask overtop of the whistle.
The NFL is not taking any chances and is looking to transport players to away games on two charter plans rather than one. This is to ensure the maximum social distancing. Seats on the planes will be blocked off every other so that no player is sitting right next to each other. To assist, the league is allowing only 70 non-players to join each traveling party. That count includes coaches, medical officials and all other essential staff.
Teams throughout the NFL are taking the opportunity to quarantine a backup quarterback away from the rest of the team. This quarterback is on standby with the hopes that if a breakout occurs, they will not be infected and the team can still play. Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson is one of the coaches to do this. The Eagles signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown to their practice squad and will let him live in Texas during the season as an insurance policy.
The NFL is following suit with the rest of the sports and entertainment industry in looking quite different in 2020. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, precautions and protocols all over the league have been put into place to ensure the success and safety of the players, staff and fans of the 202o season. The use of these procedures help to let the players play while remaining safe. All of these policies are subject to change, but as of Week 1, this is how the NFL season will look.