COVID-19 protocols for NFL change from 2020 to 2021

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Photo used with permission from Google Commons

NFL coaches wearing masks full-time was a rule in place last year, but has been removed this year.

Changes throughout 2020 to continue business, such as coaches wearing masks throughout games, games without fans in the stadium and even an online draft day all led to the strangest Super Bowl championship and NFL season ever. 

Tom Brady’s new team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defeated Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs for Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win, with only a small part of the Tampa stadium’s fans present. The NFL struggled, but eventually succeeded in rebuilding and recreating a schedule that would work in a behind-closed-doors season. However, going into 2021, these restrictions are subject to change and removal, which may lead overall to a more “energetic” and “regular” NFL year.

Players who are vaccinated have a bit more leeway, because they don’t have to get quarantined for 10 days whenever coming into contact with someone who was previously sick, but last season, no one was vaccinated.”

— Anthony Pykosh

For the majority of 2020, the NFL did not allow fans in the stadiums, leading to an eerie atmosphere in games. Fans are allowed back in stadiums this year in mass capacity, meaning that the roaring atmospheres of the past are back, making games overall much more watchable. Also, player restrictions are much less binding now. Last year, if a player tested positive, they would be put on the “reserve list” and be unable to link up with the team until after 10 days. This year, players who are vaccinated have less of these types of restrictions. “Players who are vaccinated have a bit more leeway, because they don’t have to get quarantined for 10 days whenever coming into contact with someone who was previously sick, but last season, no one was vaccinated,” PE teacher Anthony Pykosh said.

The beginning of last year was hampered by the pandemic and the new rules, leading to the overall quality of football being lower. Senior Daniel Lee, a running back for the school’s varsity football team, said, “During the off-season, players couldn’t be together for training camp, and there was no preseason, so new draft picks couldn’t get playing time, and they had to condense training camp to three to four weeks, and players were working a lot harder to decipher information, and I think that made a difference in the sharpness of the offenses and defences of the league. But over time, I think that the chemistry of the teams was back to normal.”

Lee argues that the rules, while important, led to a difficult start to the football season last year, and it is fortunate that some of those rules have been removed. The beginning six weeks of the current NFL season have not suffered those same effects, and there have already been some cracking games. 

Another COVID regulation that impacted the NFL is mask requirements. Last season, coaches were required to wear masks full-time, while this year, coaches and staff, whether vaccinated or not, will have to wear masks at all indoor facilities, but not outdoor facilities. Players still have to quarantine if they test positive for the virus. “I would say that having the players quarantine after testing positive is a smart decision by the league to protect themselves from both liability and an outbreak. However, I do believe that if they get a second test and prove that the first one was a false positive, there should be an easy way to get players back in the league. I also think that players should have a choice whether or not they should be vaccinated because of how important their bodies are to their career,” senior Jack Parsons said.