As of today, the Buffalo Bills have moved practice inside, per the Associated Press’s John Wawrow. This wouldn’t be unusual if everything this year wasn’t already unusual. It does, however, make the media’s job a bit more unusual to the extreme; it also makes it a bit harder.
Per the NFL’s new COVID-19 protocols—those that went into effect on Monday—the media won’t be allowed indoors. “Access to club facilities while coaches and players are present will be limited to essential football personnel, essential support personnel, other medical and special services, and limited media,” the protocol reads. The limited media stipulation, unfortunately, doesn’t account for when a practice moves indoors.
A few more specifics on the protocol front: All personnel not designated in the categories outlined above have to work remotely, or at a location that is physically separate from the facility where players and coaches are conducting business. As a result, non-designated personnel folks are “prohibited from interacting with essential football personnel at any time.” In doing so, the league says, they are prioritizing the mitigation of “risk for players, staff, media, and everyone involved in the game.”
So, for those reporters who often rely heavily on the brief discussions that can safely take place at an outdoor, communication will now (and for however long the team remains consistently practicing indoors) exist solely on everyone’s favorite desktop app: Zoom. Or Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams, or whatever tickles a team’s fancy.
The league has notably experienced a plethora of snags in maintaining normalcy over the course of the season, but perhaps no more than what’s gone on with the still-Week 12 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. The game, which was originally slated for primetime on Thanksgiving, has now been rescheduled three times, from Thursday to Sunday to Tuesday to Wednesday. Despite the league’s best efforts, if you will, chaos reigns supreme. So much so that the Bills will be playing the San Francisco 49ers in Arizona this coming week. Yes, Arizona.
Protocol changes, at the very least, aim to nip these complications in the bud. Who knows how keeping reporters at home will help solve the abundance of problems, but it’s another approach.