Here's a call from the NFL's postseason pandemic playbook: Two airplanes are better than one.
In an effort to reduce risks associated with COVID-19 during the playoffs, the NFL’s Finance Committee has approved the reimbursement for teams to use two aircraft for traveling to road games during the postseason, team executives and other key personnel were informed in a memo that outlined updated protocols and was obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
“Clubs should also assign seating strategically — remaining mindful about keeping position groups separate and seating players that have prior confirmed positive tests in a way to further reduce the chances of viral spread,” stated the memo from the NFL’s Management Council, football operations department and health and safety committee.
It’s another indication of the league’s intent — after completing 14 weeks of the regular season without canceling a single game — to stay on track to stage Super Bowl LV as scheduled on Feb. 7 in Tampa.
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Raymond James Stadium is set to host its third Super Bowl on Feb. 7, 2021. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
The league also extended current protocols that allow teams to provide local hotel rooms for players who live with roommates or family members to seek to avoid possible exposure to the virus from cohabitants. The cost of such lodging does not count against the salary cap.
In essence, the league is reiterating that it would allow local postseason bubbles for teams on a voluntary basis. For such bubbles to be mandatory, approval from the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) would be needed. It is unclear whether the NFLPA would sign off on mandatory local bubbles for the postseason.
In any event, the league’s memo acknowledged concern of community spread occurring in a bubble situation as it will now require players and staff who lodge at a club-provided hotel to wear electronic contact tracing devices.
“The prohibition against gathering and the requirements to wear masks and practice physical distancing will continue to apply to players and staff staying at a club-provided hotel in their local area,” the memo stated.
The updated protocols send a clear message: Having advanced this far in the season, the NFL is determined to stay the course — and on schedule to the finish line.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.
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