The NFL is updating its COVID-19 protocols and no longer requiring participating unvaccinated players to wear masks during outdoor practice sessions.
In a memo to the 32 teams sent by the NFL Management Council and obtained by The Associated Press, the league said that beginning with the stretching portion of the workout through the end of practice, such players now can work unmasked. Once the practice concludes, they must put on a mask.
The same will be true for practices in a team's "bubble," the indoor practice facility.
Players who are not practicing still must wear masks if they haven't been vaccinated against the coronavirus. They also must wear face coverings for weight sessions, all outdoor meetings and the post-practice periods even when family -- which the league is terming "cohabitants" -- are allowed on the field.
The league also loosened restrictions on what those cohabitants can do after practices. They now are allowed to join players and all Tier 1 and Tier 2 personnel -- those who deal directly with players -- on the field. Outdoor social events are permitted at the facility, with some restrictions.
For teams with fewer than 90% vaccinated players, the visitors must produce proof of vaccination that teams must verify. Children under 12 will be allowed on the field or for social events. However, unvaccinated players, staff and children under 12 must wear masks and practice social distancing.
For teams with more than 90% vaccinated players, there will be no requirements for proof of vaccination. The same restrictions apply to those who are not vaccinated.
Unvaccinated players will be allowed to remove their masks for outdoor media interviews provided physical distance is maintained.
Finally, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed that players experiencing side effects "or an adverse event with the onset of such (COVID-19) symptoms" within the 48 hours after being vaccinated would be treated as a football-related injury. The team physician must "reasonably determine they are causally related to receiving" the vaccine.