NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league expects full stadiums this season and players and staff are being encouraged to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“One of the things we’ve obviously learned over the last year is not to make projections too far out,” Goodell said Wednesday following virtual meetings with team owners.
“Thirty-two teams are going to have to be in compliance with health officials on a local basis, do whatever is necessary to keep all personnel safe. But we do think it will be a much more normal experience. We do expect full stadiums. It is very possible that some non-vaccinated personnel may have masks on.
"But those are things that I think we’ll continue to follow closely, make sure that we’re doing in accordance with all laws and regulations and make sure that we provide our fans the best possible experience.”
So far, 30 of 32 teams have approval to safely open at 100% capacity before the preseason schedule begins. The Colts and Broncos do not but are on a path to get approval before August.
Goodell said 30 of 32 teams also have above 90 percent vaccination among Tier 1 and 2 staff and the other two clubs are over 85 percent. He said positivity rate for COVID-19 is currently at 0.04 percent, down from .08 percent during the regular season. The league updated its COVID-19 protocols and removed many restrictions for fully vaccinated players.
“We do think the players and our personnel are safer if they’re vaccinated,” Goodell said. “I think that’s true throughout our country and throughout our world.”
Goodell said social justice was a topic addressed during meetings with owners.
“We reflected on the murder of George Floyd a year ago yesterday,” he said. “Our focus at the league and the clubs remains squarely, as it did in the years prior, on working with our players and our partners to help build a more just society. And, we talked about our continuing commitment in that area. We are also focused on our continued expansion of our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which will continue to be four pillars of our continued growth and success. We had a lengthy discussion on that.”
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said he spoke with former player and assistant coach Eugene Chung, who recently revealed that a team official told him he was “not the right minority” for a job during an interview. Chung, who is Korean American, didn’t identify the team.
“It’s disturbing,” Vincent said. “When you hear it, it just tells us how much work we still have to do, how much education is needed for all of us. ... We can just do better and we will.”
Dasha Smith, the NFL’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said the league is investigating.
“It’s not at all in line with our values and what we stand for at the NFL,” Smith said. “We’ll address it appropriately.”
In other news from the owners’ meetings:
— The NFL approved a rule change for player safety, expanding the prohibition for blocks below the waist.
— Rosters for training camp were set for a maximum of 90 players. A cutdown to 85 is due by Aug. 17 and a second cutdown to 80 a week later. Teams have to set their 53-man rosters by Aug. 31 after the third preseason game.
— The league and the NFLPA agreed to set a salary cap ceiling of $208.2 million for 2022.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL