The NFL has banned jersey exchanges in 2020 as the league attempts to play through the coronavirus pandemic, according to a set of protocols distributed to teams Wednesday and obtained Thursday by ESPN.
Jersey exchanges have gained in popularity in recent years, and their elimination was met with immediate derision from some prominent players on social media. San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman tweeted that it was a “perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell,” noting that players will “engage in a full contact game” only to find that it isn’t safe to exchange jerseys. Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson tweeted that it was “DAMN SILLY.”
The NFL Players Association, however, signed off on the policy, which states: “A key component of the NFL and NFLPA’s COVID-19 Protocols is limiting exposure risk to NFL players, coaches, club medical staffs, and other club and league staff.”
All postgame interactions with less than 6 feet of separation are prohibited.
Other highlights of the policy include:
• Coaches and players who aren’t likely to appear in the game are “strongly encouraged” but not required to wear masks on the sideline. Assistant coaches who work in the coaches’ booth must wear a mask as they walk to and from the locker room or field. Other people who have field access, such as broadcast partners and NFL representatives, must wear masks. A maximum of 184 people can be granted field access for a game, not counting players, coaches and other staffers who receive bench access.
• Players and coaches must submit to multiple temperature checks before games and cannot participate if they have a fever of more than 100.4 degrees.
• Every effort must be made to space lockers 6 feet apart in both the home and visitors locker room. Plexiglass partitions are also an option.
• Arrangements must be made to ensure that there are no shared water cups or bottles on the sideline.
• Players are required to spend the night before games at the team hotel, even if they are playing in their home stadium.
These policies will take effect for preseason and regular-season games. The NFL is planning to have two preseason games for each team, but the NFLPA has endorsed a training camp with no preseason games. Rookies and selected veterans can report to training camp as early as July 21, with full teams eligible to report on July 28.