NFL tightens COVID-19 rules, will discipline players who don’t wear mask on sidelines

FILE - Cornerback Malcolm Butler #21 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates with a face mask after defeating the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

As COVID-19 cases rise around the country, the National Football League has announced new and stricter safety guidelines that all players and coaches must adhere to starting Thanksgiving week.

In a memorandum sent out to management and head coaches on Monday, three additional restrictions were added to the NFL’s COVID-19 guidelines:

  • Physically distancing and mask-wearing on game day
  • Reduction in the number of persons permitted to travel
  • Reclassification and reduction of non-player staff permitted at club facilities

The first two updated restrictions will go into effect on Thanksgiving Day and the third will start on Nov. 30, according to the NFL.

Players will now be required to wear masks while sitting on the sidelines, just like their coaches, and the home team will provide an adequate amount of facial coverings for each player.

“Players who fail to wear masks on the sidelines will be subject to discipline,” the memorandum read.

In addition to wearing a face covering, if players are no longer participating in the game, interactions will be limited to a brief greeting between teams, after which players must “promptly return” to their locker rooms.

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The second added restriction will allow a total of 62 players to travel together at one time. In order to accommodate travel restrictions, participating teams must submit a list of no more than 62 eligible players by 4 p.m. (ET) the day prior to the game.

Beginning in week 13, all players and staff will be required to wear a KN95 or N95 mask while traveling.

And starting Nov. 30, only certain essential personnel — a maximum of 70 — will be allowed to enter club facilities while coaches and players are present.

And a maximum of 25 essential support personnel, which includes but are not limited to food prep staff, security and cleaning staff, will be allowed inside club facilities while players and coaches are present.

In addition to essential staff, no more than five special services personnel which include massage therapists, chiropractors and barbers, will be allowed, as well as no more than 15 members of media personnel.

"Clubs are required to enforce these rules. Violations by players and/or staff will result in accountability measures being imposed upon the club," according to the memorandum.