Third Season in the Age of COVID-19 |  The NFL back to normal

Third Season in the Age of COVID-19 | The NFL back to normal

(Nashville) Derrick Henry was spotted running with his daughter on the field after practice. Green Bay Packers players have resumed their tradition of borrowing kid’s bikes to practice. Fans pile in again to get autographs of their favorites.

Posted at 2:58 p.m.

Teresa M. Walker
Associated Press

Yes, everything seems to be back to normal across the NFL as it prepares for its third campaign in the age of COVID-19.

There are no more screening tents and masks are scarce. In fact, the protocols designed and revised by the league and the NFL Players Association in 2020 and 2021 were suspended last March.

The NFL appears to be following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which ended recommendations for social distancing and quarantines last week as 95% of Americans age 16 or older acquired some level of immunity through vaccination or infection.

The league still wants anyone with symptoms to report and wear a mask after contact with someone who has contracted COVID-19. A positive test still means a five-day home quarantine.


PHOTO GAIL BURTON, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mike Vrabel, head coach of the Tennessee Titans

“I believe that we are always concerned about everyone’s health, our own and that of our families,” Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said, adding that after two and a half years of the pandemic , “I hope we can turn the page. »

The biggest changes are easiest to see across NFL camps: fans are back and close enough to shake hands.

The players are happy to see the fans again and appreciate their energy during the long, monotonous days of camp.

“It’s thanks to the fans that the wheels keep turning,” Packers running back Aaron Jones said.


PHOTO SAMANTHA MADAR, ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Aaron Jones

The Packers were among the teams that allowed fans to attend practices in 2021, but from a distance. Also, they couldn’t interact with players.

The families of players, coaches and staff are also back.

Henry’s daughter, Valentina, 2, is the perfect age to run with her dad before practice. The two-time NFL rushing champion said those were the types of moments he will remember for a long time.

“These are precious moments, especially with your kids, because football takes a lot of your time,” Henry said.

Vaccination had already allowed some relaxation of the 2020 protocol, when teammates had to stay away and wear a mask on the field in training or during matches. Titans center Ben Jones noted that the move made it harder for players to develop cohesion and camaraderie.


PHOTO GEORGE WALKER IV, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Derrick Henry

“As a leader on a team, you want guys to bond and have an impact,” Jones said.

Social distancing is no longer mandatory, as are testing, which saves some time in the morning.

No regular games have been canceled in the past two seasons, but several have been moved to 2020 and the entire preseason schedule has been cancelled. About 95% of players and nearly 100% of team personnel are vaccinated, the league reported.

The other professional circuits have also adjusted their protocols.

— Major League Baseball has dropped daily screening tests for everyone before the 2022 season except those with symptoms.

— The NHL does not plan to test its players, coaches and staff members who do not have symptoms and wishes to restore access to the locker rooms to journalists. Like the NBA and Major League Baseball, unvaccinated individuals will not be able to cross the Canada-US border. Only a handful of players and assistant coaches fall into this category in the NHL.

— The NBA has yet to reveal its full policy for the upcoming season. Commissioner Adam Silver said last month he expected the trend towards normalcy to continue. “I’ve learned over the past two and a half years that it’s best not to make predictions when we’re talking about COVID, but we’ll be prepared no matter what. »

Associated Press reporters Josh Dubow, Tim Reynolds, Stephen Whyno, John Wawrow, Steve Megargee and Jake Seiner also contributed to this article.

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