The NFL issued new guidance Monday for its operations amid the coronavirus pandemic, most notably making it a requirement for players to wear masks on the sideline unless they have their helmet on and are preparing to enter the game.
The new protocols will take effect when Week 12 begins Thursday and are backed by the threat of discipline for failure to comply.
Players who "are not substituting or preparing to enter the field of play and are not wearing their helmets will be required to wear a mask or double-layered gaiter" while on the sideline, according to a memo sent to teams.
Coaches who call plays will no longer have the option to wear only a face shield. Instead, they must wear a face mask or double-layered gaiter in addition to the face shield.
Clubs are required to enforce the mask rules, and the memo adds: "Violations by players and/or staff will result in accountability measures being imposed by the club." The league recommends each team designate one or two staff members to ensure compliance on the sideline.
The maximum number of players who can travel has been reduced to 62.
Access to club facilities has been reduced. A total of 70 people can be designated as essential football personnel. Another 25 can be named essential support personnel but can have no contact or interaction with essential football personnel. Up to five medical service employees can be designated for access.
Media access will be limited. A total of 15 team and independent members of the media can cover outdoor practices, but independent reporters "may not enter club facility (including the practice bubble)." Up to five team-affiliated media members can cover indoor practices.
Players and staff will be allowed to interact "briefly" after games but then must promptly return to their locker room.
Confirmed positive tests among NFL players and staff have increased alongside the rise in community spread across the country. A total of 108 tests have returned positive in the past two testing periods, compared to 146 in the previous 11 periods.