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After consulting with their respective experts, the NFL has backtracked a number of guidelines established by their original COVID-19 mandates, including a restriction on visitors related to unvaccinated players. The updated ruling additionally axed the NFL’s mandatory mask mandate for unvaccinated players participating in outdoor practices.
According to Tom Pelissero from the NFL Network, “The NFL informed clubs today of updated COVID protocols, including allowing players and staff to have family members on the field after practice and at social events, and removing the mask mandate for unvaccinated players during outdoor practices, per source.”
Per the new memo released by the NFL:
“For clubs with fewer than 90% of their players fully vaccinated (as reflected in the IQVIA vaccine portal)
- Cohabitants that produce proof of vaccination to the club and children under 12 will be permitted to join players and Tier 1/Tier 2 staff on the field following practice, or at an outdoor social event held at the facility following practice.
- Clubs are responsible for verifying vaccination status for such cohabitants.
- Unvaccinated players, unvaccinated staff and children under 12 must wear masks and practice physical distancing.”
The original mandate regarding unvaccinated players prohibited visiting family and friends from engaging with players during team practices and all team-related activities, unless approved by the NFL and NFLPA.
The NFL defined Tier 1 personnel as coaches and all participants expected to have direct communications with players. Tier 2 trickles down the same restrictions to personnel that interact with members from Tier 1.
Regarding activities on the field, the NFL maintains that unvaccinated players — not actively participating in outdoor practice sessions — will be required to wear masks on the sideline, during all outdoor meetings and all indoor settings.
The NFL’s backpedaling on mandatory masks provided some leniency for unvaccinated players after various teams and teammates stepped up to criticize the inconsistent mandates. Following a league-wide ruling for teams to openly identify their unvaxxed players — based on the franchise’s preferred system — the ruling snowballed into delegating colored bracelets to unvaccinated players for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.