The scenes inside NFL stadiums across the nation looked dramatically different in Week 1 from years past as most stands were devoid of fans. That’s what happens when you play sports in the midst of a pandemic. The NFL, like other industries, is implementing its own set of pandemic-based rules for the 2020 season. After the first week of action, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn’t a fan of one NFL rule in particular.
NFL develops pandemic rules for 2020
Outside of the obvious no fans in the stadium, the NFL has developed an entire set of pandemic-specific guidelines for the 2020 season designed to protect players and all those involved in NFL games. Sideline reporters, for example, can’t roam the sidelines. Instead, they are sitting in the stands directly behind the team benches.
As would be expected, most of the new guidelines affect the players. Players are subjected to regular testing throughout the season. Those who don’t participate can receive a fine of up to $50,000.
In addition, there won’t be the communal Gatorade bottles seen during the game. Instead, players will have a personal bottle or drink from a disposable cup.
NFL bans postgame interaction and jersey swap
In July, the NFL announced one rule specific to players that left a lot of people scratching their heads. The new rule calls for interactions between opposing players during the postgame to be practiced at a safe social distance of at least six feet apart. That means no hand shakes, no hugs, and no jersey swap, which has become a popular thing in recent years. Not surprisingly, several NFL players responded, including San Francisco’s Richard Sherman.
“This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell,” Sherman wrote on Twitter. ‘Players can go engage in a full contact game and do it safely. However, it is deemed unsafe for them to exchange jerseys after said game.”
In early September, the NFL adjusted its postgame interactions policy for jersey swaps — sort of. The NFL told clubs, through a partnership with Tide, players would be allowed to swap jerseys via mail. The detergent company would cover the cost of one replacement jersey per player and would wash the jersey and exchange it through the mail.
Aaron Rodgers critical of NFL’s pandemic policy
After a Week 1 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers appeared on the Pat McAfee Show and talked about the first week of NFL action. Rodgers couldn’t help but discuss the different experiences playing under the new guidelines.
He said outside of it being oddly advantageous for the visiting team to play on the road in an empty stadium, he couldn’t help but notice the NFL’s policy on jersey swaps.
“We’re coming back and we’re playing and they’re now allowing people to at least say hi to each other after the game,” Rodgers told McAfee. “And God forbid, you take your jersey off and give it to somebody else. At least you got to shake somebody’s hand.”
Rodgers is echoing the thoughts of Sherman and many others in pointing out the NFL’s hypocrisy on the jersey swap. After players have breathed, sweated, and spat on each other for hours, it’s hard to fathom trading a jersey exposes a player to something more threatening to their health than what they’ve already been exposed to during the game.
But it’s the NFL. The league isn’t necessarily known for making expedited changes to outdated policies. Just ask Colin Kaepernick.