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NFL, NFLPA reveal updated COVID-19 protocols

Unvaccinated players, coaches and staff members will face several restrictions during training camp and the preseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The NFL released an updated series of protocols on Wednesday outlining how teams will handle COVID-19 during training camp and the preseason.

The protocols, which were developed with the NFL Players Association, basically spell out that everything will return to normal for any player, coach, staff and media member who has been vaccinated.

Things will be a bit more ... difficult ... for anyone who has yet to be vaccinated.

Any player or coach who has not been vaccinated will be tested for COVID every day before entering the team’s facility, will have to wear a mask at the team facility and while traveling, must maintain social distancing in the team facility, must quarantine if they are exposed to COVID, will be limited in their access to the team’s weight room, may not eat with teammates (for players) and have to get takeaway from the cafeteria (for staff or coaches), and can’t leave the team hotel to eat in a restaurant or interact with anyone out of the team on a road trip.

Perhaps the biggest item, at least as it relates to the players, is that if an unvaccinated player attends a nightclub, bar, party, concerts or similar activity, they can be fined $50,000 for the first offense.

On the plus side, if a vaccinated player is deemed a high-risk, close contact to someone who has tested positive for COVID, they will not have to go into quarantine for five days. That would have come in handy last season when the Browns lost their entire starting wide receiver group for the Week 16 game against the New York Jets.

Those are just some of the highlights - the full league memo is available here.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about the new protocols on Wednesday, and while he did not go into specifics because of federal HIPPA laws, he did say that more than half the team’s players are vaccinated, according to a team-provided transcript:

“I am not going to share the number. We are not 100 percent so we are going to make sure we continue to educate our guys on how this can help themselves and their families. We have talked about how it is a competitive advantage. We want to make sure that they have a ton of information as they make their choice, but I am not going to get into the specifics of who is vaccinated and who is unvaccinated. I will confirm whatever the league said – we are higher than 51.”

The Browns saw last season how COVID-19 could quickly put a season in jeopardy.

Hopefully, the new protocols will help ensure that they will not see a repeat of that in 2021.