Image Courtesy of the New York Times
By Zachary Lichter
On March 3, 2022, the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) announced that they will end their Covid-19 protocols immediately. NFL Operations will return to normal after spending two years with restrictions. Players, coaches, and staff members will no longer need to wear masks (unless they want to), keep track of their health, or participate in mandatory surveillance testing unless state or local laws require it. Players, coaches, or staff members that test positive for the coronavirus or show symptoms will have to report to the team’s medical staff and will need to quarantine for five days. The players, coaches, and staff members must report a negative test to return to their team’s facility.
The NFL season is played mainly during cold and flu season or, as some healthcare workers would probably say, “cold, flu, and Covid season” during the coronavirus pandemic. Eighteen games were rescheduled during the 2020 NFL season due to players testing positive for the coronavirus, and some games got pushed two or three days back from when scheduled initially. Other games ended up getting pushed back multiple weeks and rescheduled for later times in the season. All the players that tested positive were before the coronavirus vaccines were released to the general public, and the NFL saw a decreased number of cases once vaccines were rolled out.
“It is not too early for the league to get rid of their protocols months before the 2022 season,” said freshman Matthew Bubb. “This is not a permanent change and is one that can easily be reversed if another variant of covid breaks out again. This will also be beneficial for the draft process, since the NFL Combine will be allowed to return to how it was pre covid. The Combine is important for teams to see their potential draft picks in action.”
Between the 2020 and the 2021 NFL seasons, most Americans and the world are now fully vaccinated, and some are boosted. Despite the coronavirus protocols, the 2021 NFL season was more of a normal football season. The NFL didn’t face a coronavirus outbreak until Week 15 when three games ended up getting postponed. When the three games got delayed, the coronavirus cases surged from the omicron variant in the United States. But with the NFL season mainly being played in fall and winter, could there be another outbreak? Could another variant make its way into the United States?
“It is possible that another variant emerges that causes the government to reinstate covid protocols, such as masks, which would result in the league reinstating their covid restrictions,” Bubb said. “If another outbreak occurs it is possible that the league is forced to either delay or cancel/reschedule games. If too many players test positive, it might not be possible for the teams to play.”
But as the world continues to go back to normal, the NFL is looking forward to having a regular football season and a normal draft. The 2022 NFL Draft will be from April 28th-April 30th in Las Vegas, and the regular season will kick off on September 8th.