Last year, NFL teams hosting games were required to provide sufficient locker room space for visiting teams to permit for full-blown physical distancing. This year, that requirement does not apply — regardless of the vaccination status of the visiting team.
A July 8 memo sent by the league to all teams addressed the question of whether home teams would be required to once again make extra space available, given that home teams won’t know how many of the opposing players are vaccinated.
“Clubs are not required to provide additional space beyond the visiting team locker room this year,” the memo explains. “Visiting clubs must assign lockers to unvaccinated players to ensure they maintain physical distance from other unvaccinated players.”
In some visiting locker rooms (which often are on the small side), that could become an issue for teams still struggling to get half the players vaccinated. Given that the younger players and those fighting for bottom-of-roster jobs generally have been more inclined to get vaccinated in order to enhance their chances of a spot on the 53-man team, there could be teams with more than a few untouchable veterans who aren’t and won’t be getting vaccinated. In some visiting locker rooms, that could make things a little interesting and potentially awkward for the road team to figure out how to cram everyone in there.
In a weird sort of way, it actually could be better in the smaller locker rooms to be unvaccinated, since those players will have more elbow room. That will do little, however, to ingratiate those players to the vaccinated teammates who possibly will be sardined into whatever space remains, after the unvaccinated players are given their required space.