As the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact communities across the world, we are all working through unprecedented challenges to address the crisis. It is vital that we remain calm, stay informed, and do our part to keep ourselves and each other safe.
Over the last few weeks, the NFL has remained in constant contact with NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NFL and NFLPA’s experts at the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON) to gather information about COVID-19. The situation is constantly evolving, but we are committed to making sure our guidelines and policies evolve along with it.
To that end, I want to share a few of the actions the NFL has already taken to mitigate risks for NFL players, club staff, and our broader communities:
2020 NFL Draft Modifications
The NFL Draft will look different this year. The clubs’ selection of players will proceed as scheduled April 23-25. However, public events in Las Vegas are cancelled. Fans can still follow the draft day excitement on TV, and the NFL is exploring innovative options for how the process will be conducted and will share that information as it becomes available.
Off-Season Programs Delayed Indefinitely
Off-season programs that were scheduled to begin on April 6 for clubs with new head coaches and April 20 for all other clubs are now delayed indefinitely to protect all personnel and communities. We are working closely with Dr. Mayer and other medical and public health experts to develop a standard set of protocols for clubs to implement regarding facility cleaning and maintenance, equipment preparation, steps to identify player and staff who may be at elevated risk, and other preventive measures. The NFL and NFLPA medical teams are meeting periodically to review the status of public health conditions to determine an appropriate start date for any offseason team activities as this situation develops.
Limited Access to Club Facilities
NFL club facilities are currently closed to players, with the exception of those undergoing medically supervised rehabilitation and treatment. They will remain closed through the end of the month, at which point we will reevaluate the latest advice from medical and public health experts and make further modifications as needed.
Free Agency Modifications
The free agency period opened, as scheduled, with the start of the league year on March 18. While clubs and free agent players may enter into contracts during this period, there are strict restrictions in place to protect players and club staff. Clubs may not bring any free agent player, including their own, to a club facility or other location to meet with club personnel. Additionally, club personnel, including members of the club medical staff, may not travel to any location to meet with a free agent player. These restrictions will remain in place until further notice.
The NFL has also shared newsletters from DICON with the Head Team Physicians and Athletic Trainers of all 32 NFL clubs, highlighting recommendations to reduce the risk of acquisition and spread of infection in NFL training facilities and recommendations for team personnel. You can find those resources here.
We will continue to closely monitor developments, consult with leading experts, and be prepared to make any changes necessary as circumstances warrant.
Over the course of my medical career, I have seen a number of public health crises sweep the globe. COVID-19 is unique, but medical and public health experts are working tirelessly to understand and implement what needs to be done to get us through this latest crisis. By heeding the advice of trusted health organizations, we can all be part of the solution.
Optimism has always been a trademark of American society. We will find a way to persevere, conquer this pandemic, and come out the other side better and stronger.
Take care of each other, stay positive, and stay safe.
Dr. Allen Sills
Chief Medical Officer
National Football League