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NFL expands off-field mask mandate, limits post-game interactions

NFL expands off-field mask mandate, limits post-game interactions
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The NFL is expanding its off-field mask mandate and limiting post-game interactions between players in new coronavirus restrictions set to be implemented this week.

The league detailed the new COVID-19 rules in a memo to teams on Monday that was obtained by The Hill and warned that those who do not follow the protocols could face punishment. 

Players who are not substituting or preparing to enter the field and are not wearing helmets will be required to wear a mask or a double-layered gaiter while on the sideline. The player and staff interactions after each game will also be reduced, although players and team personnel wearing masks can briefly greet the opposing team. 

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The play-callers will also be mandated to wear a face mask, even if they wear a face shield. These rules will go into effect starting with the games on Thanksgiving. 

“Players who fail to wear masks on the sidelines will be subject to discipline,” the league said in its memo. “Clubs are required to enforce these rules.”

“Violations by players and/or staff will result in accountability measures being imposed upon the club,” it continued. “It is strongly recommended that each club designate one or two individuals in the bench area to ensure compliance with these rules.”

The NFL is also only allowing up to 62 players to travel for games, including those who are injured and not able to play. During travel, all players and staff have to wear N95 or KN95 masks on planes and buses, beginning next week. 

The league is also restricting access to the teams’ training facilities to essential football and support personnel when players and coaches are present. Up to five specialists like chiropractors, massage therapists and barbers are allowed in team facilities per week.

The COVID-19 restrictions come as the league struggles with new outbreaks.

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The Baltimore Ravens canceled their practice on Tuesday due to coronavirus cases, but NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told The Baltimore Sun that the team's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, an AFC North rival, will still be played on Thursday.

“We will continue to monitor developments in consultation with our medical experts,” McCarthy said. “Our foremost concern is the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel. There’s no change to the status of the game.”

The new rules also follow last week’s memo in which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell instructed the teams that the league would impose “intensive” COVID-19 protocols on a “mandatory, league-wide basis” starting last Saturday.