The NFL doesn’t want to make the concession(s) to the union that would make a postseason bubble mandatory. As a result, teams that are serious about contending for a championship surely will set up voluntary postseason bubbles on their own.
In a memo sent Tuesday to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the league reiterates that clubs may continue to provide hotel rooms for players who live with roommates or family members, “if the player elects to move into a hotel in order to avoid possible exposure to the virus from their cohabitant(s).”
“This provision will remain in place throughout the postseason, however, with the exception of the night before the game when players and coaches are required to stay in the team hotel, clubs may not require players and staff to stay at a hotel in their local area,” the memo explains. “This decision is based upon an analysis of the frequency of positive cases in the league compared to the risk of significant spread among players and staff gathered for an extensive period of time at one hotel.”
That’s the balance the league must strike: Protecting the players from catching the virus in the community versus protecting the players from catching it in the hotel. As to players, the other reality is that mandatory hotel stays require union approval.
For players who stay in a hotel, the NFL is taking extra steps to ensure there will not be an outbreak.
“To further protect against the risk inherent in gathering players and staff at a hotel, we will now require all players and staff who are staying at a club-provided hotel in their local area to wear a Kinexon device at all times until they return to their hotel rooms to go to bed each night,” the memo says.” 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.”
For months, it has been believed in league circles that playoff teams will establish voluntary postseason bubbles — and that players will volunteer to stay in those hotels. Quarterbacks and other team leaders will set the example, and peer pressure will get the rest to choose to stay there.
This apparently applies only to players who don’t live alone, however. That said, it will be difficult if not impossible for the league to police whether the team provides hotel rooms to players who live alone. The playoffs teams most committed to winning the Super Bowl will be the teams most likely to put all players in a hotel, from Monday, January 4 through the end of the postseason.