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NFL will require physical distancing in locker rooms

NFL locker rooms are already a fairly tight squeeze. No social distancing rules are going to require some creativity.

Nick Bosa of the San Francisco 49ers talks with Dee Ford and Anthony Zettel in the locker room before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium on February 2, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

UPDATE: The NFLPA said the memo recently sent out by the NFL was not released with union approval.

The NFL is working on health and safety protocols as it continues preparations for the start of training camp later this summer. Offseason workout programs have remained entirely virtual, so locker rooms have remained empty. However, at some point players will return to facilities to begin in-person workouts, and there will need to be protocols in place to keep everybody safe.

The NFL and NFLPA sent a memo to the 32 clubs discussing new requirements, and physical distancing figures in prominently. Albert Breer posted the full memo, and Jonathan Jones posted a screenshot of the physical distancing section. The most notable part might be= the requirement of six feet of distance between all players and staff when inside the facility. More specifically, it says clubs must reconfigure locker rooms to permit six feet of space between each player, using every other locker or adding additional liockers.

The section specifically says “where possible” and if locker space is unavailable, “[e]ach player must have individual space designated to store his belongings.” This is significant because space is already at a premium in locker rooms. During training camp, when teams have as many as 90 players on the roster, they already have to use temporary lockers. If you’ve never been in an NFL locker room during training camp, I can tell you they are incredibly cramped.

Each club cannot go to an outside training camp location, so we will likely see more use of the extra locker room space available for visiting teams. We also will probably see some temporary outdoor space built up when rosters are at their biggest.

Where it becomes a bigger issue is once the season starts. Even with the cutdown to 53-man rosters, you’ll be dealing with two such rosters, so as many as 106 total players. There are extra locker rooms in most stadiums, but this is going to require some creativity to have sufficient spacing on game days.