Bubble-like environment is a possibility for NFL playoffs, league says

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The NFL will examine the possibilities of a post-season bubble that would further protect players, coaches and staff from COVID-19 during the most important games of the season, the executive vice president of the football operations, Troy Vincent.New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton broached the idea at a recent competition committee meeting, Vincent said. The league didn’t make any commitments, and Vincent said he wasn’t sure it was something the league could do “legally”. But he reiterated that “everything is on the table” for the moment.

“We didn’t use the term ‘bubble’,” said Vincent, “but this ‘secure environment’ to make sure there is no risk from the outside as the teams start to do so. [playoff] drive. … We told Coach Payton that this was something the two [chief medical officer Allen] Sills and the teams would explore. These are things we need to be flexible about. ”

Bubbles that isolate players, coaches and key staff from the local community have worked well for the NBA, WNBA, NHL, and professional soccer. The NFL considered, but ultimately decided not to have real market bubbles for the season, citing the relative practicality of what would be at least six months of isolation. Instead, he created what Sills called a ‘virtual football bubble’ consisting of strict protocols in team facilities and discipline of potential players for risky behavior when they are away from it.

The approach gave good preliminary results, and as of Tuesday only 10 players remained on the league’s COVID-19 reserve list. Some teams, including the Saints and the Dallas Cowboys, have created volunteer bubbles for players during training camp that allow them to commute between a hotel and the training center without significant exposure to the surrounding community.

In other league news on Wednesday:

* Vincent confirmed that Commissioner Roger Goodell has formed a COVID-19 advisory committee to help make certain decisions during the season that would normally fall under the jurisdiction of the competition committee. Vincent declined to name board members, but said they would help Goodell make decisions about potential schedule changes, postponements, cancellations and other issues that could be a conflict of interest for the board members. members of the competition committee.

* The NFL changed its protocol to eliminate testing for anyone known to have tested positive in the past 90 days. The change reflects new CDC guidelines that people previously infected maintain their immunity for at least three months. Although not tested, these people will still need to follow the protocol for masks and other personal protective equipment.

* The league distributed travel and game protocols to teams this week. In order to minimize the number of people on the field before a game, the league has banned cheerleaders, mascots, reporters and fans from the field at all times.

* Sills said the league is monitoring saliva testing progress but has given no indication it will move from its current PCR testing protocol. “Everything we do has to be filtered through the goal of having the most accurate and efficient test possible,” he said.

* Sills said reviews have been “mixed” on an Oakley-designed plastic mask that attaches to helmets and is designed to minimize the spread of the virus during practices and games. Concerns about the breathability of the mask have led Oakley to develop a new version that will be released soon, Sills said.

* There has been no decision on whether the league will continue to conduct daily COVID-19 testing during the regular season, Sills said. The NFL and NFL Players Association testing agreement expires on September 5, after which they will have to decide whether to extend daily testing or, if infection rates remain low, reduce them to every other day.

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