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NFL, NFLPA agree to new COVID-19 protocols for 2021 season, loosening restrictions for those vaccinated

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A year after implementing all kinds of restrictions for an abbreviated offseason program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to new protocols for the 2021 season, as NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports. Specific to this summer’s training camps and preseason games, the updated protocols significantly loosen restrictions on those who’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. As NFL memos indicate, they will affect everyone from players to media members, even potentially offering a competitive advantage to teams with higher rates of vaccination.

Fully vaccinated players will no longer be required to undergo daily COVID tests, wear masks or face coverings at team facilities or during travel. (Pelissero adds those players will now only be tested once every two weeks.) They’ll also be allowed to forgo all social distancing measures and won’t be required to quarantine after high-risk exposure to COVID. Vaccinated players, coaches and staff will not be confined to a certain meeting capacity and will also be free of any gathering restrictions outside team facilities.

Those who aren’t fully vaccinated will still be required to follow guidelines similar to those in 2020 — masks, daily testing, physical distancing, etc. will all be enforced.

The biggest on-field implications, Pelissero notes, relate to the quarantine procedures. Previously, anyone labeled a high-risk close contact to COVID-19 was required to isolate from all other players, coaches and staff for at least five days. This led to countless players — some of them big names at important positions, like quarterback — missing either practice or games during the 2020 season. Now, those fully vaccinated are no longer required to sit out at all, regardless of close contact.

The media will also have team access restored if vaccinated. The new NFL and NFLPA memos permit fully vaccinated media members to conduct in-person interviews with players for the first time since early 2020. Media who have not been vaccinated, meanwhile, will not be permitted in the press box, on the field, sidelines or team locker rooms entering the 2021 season.

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