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Updated NFL COVID-19 guidelines released, greatly relaxing restrictions for fully vaccinated players

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

On Wednesday, the NFL released new COVID-19 guidelines to NFL teams regarding players and coaches (via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network). Some rather large changes are included for fully vaccinated players, as those with two weeks from their final shot will be able to return to normal. The guidelines don’t punish the unvaccinated, but they certainly make their lives difficult both inside and away from the facility as a means to incentivize.

The biggest on-field change fans will see is no longer will masks be required for those on the sideline who are fully vaccinated. You will be able to see head coach Sean McDermott yell at the refs again.

The Buffalo Bills and multiple NFL teams dealt with players placed into high-risk quarantine for exposures. If a player is fully vaccinated, they will no longer need to quarantine for five days. That goes for tryout players attempting to make a new team, as well, so they have a rather large financial incentive.

The last big change we will see is the return of in-person interviews by fully vaccinated reporters. No longer will they need to retreat to their vehicles in the parking lot to join a ZOOM conference. They can be in the press box and the rest of the facility, as well. They will have to maintain physical distancing requirements, but this is a welcome change.

Inside the facility and behind the scenes, there will be a lot more changes we don’t see, but are important to coaches and players. Here are the perks of being a fully vaccinated player:

  • Tested every two weeks instead of daily
  • Not be required to wear masks in the facility or on team charters
  • Allowed to be closer than six feet with other vaccinated players
  • Travel freely without restrictions
  • Workout in the weight room without capacity and spacing restrictions & use sauna
  • Eat in the cafeteria
  • Engage in sponsorship, media, and marketing activities
  • Interact with vaccinated friends and family on road trips
  • Gather together outside the team facility
  • Go to nightclubs, bars, house parties, concerts, etc.

Unvaccinated players who violate the NFL’s coronavirus rules can be subject to a $50,000 fine for a first offense and escalating financial consequences in the future.

If you’re wondering about training camp, the Bills haven’t announced attendance options for that. If they have fans at One Bills Drive, they will need to stay at least 20 feet from players and coaches, so no autographs.