Deshaun Watson, Richard Sherman Among Critics of NFL's COVID-19 Proposals

Several football players criticized a series of measures the NFL introduced to deal with the novel coronavirus pandemic, branding them "silly" and out of touch with the game.

In a set of proposed protocols distributed to the 32 franchises on Wednesday, the league highlighted a series of changes it hopes will allow it to play through the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, NFL Network and ESPN both reported the proposed guidelines, which were agreed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association, will forbid players from interacting within six feet of each other after games, while jersey exchanges between players would be prohibited.

"A key component of the NFL and NFLPA's COVID-19 Protocols is limiting exposure risk to NFL players, coaches, club medical staffs, and other club and league staff," the protocols state, as per ESPN.

The proposals are yet to be formally ratified but were met with stinging criticism from a host of high-profile players. "This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell," San Francisco 49ers veteran Richard Sherman tweeted.

"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."

This is a perfect example of NFL thinking in a nutshell. 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. 😂🤣😂

— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) July 9, 2020

Free agent linebacker Darron Lee echoed Sherman's thoughts, implying football's high-contact nature made the games a far riskier environment than any post-game interactions.

"So we can hit each other all game but can't shake hands after?" the first-round pick of the 2016 NFL Draft tweeted.

So we can hit eachother ALL game but can't shake hands after? 😂

— Darron Lee (@DLeeMG8) July 9, 2020

Sherman and Lee weren't the only outspoken critics of the new guidelines.

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson described the protocols as "damn silly," while Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs was left puzzled by the proposal.

"Not trying to be funny or anything but this gotta be a joke," the former Minnesota Vikings wideout tweeted in response to a tweet from NFL Network's Tom Pellissero announcing the new guidelines.

thats DAMN SILLY bro.. 🤦🏾‍♂️

— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) July 9, 2020

Not trying to be funny or anything but this gotta be a joke

— DIGGS (@stefondiggs) July 9, 2020

Las Vegas Raiders wideout Henry Ruggs struck a similar tone, suggesting the NFL hadn't thought the proposals through properly.

Y'all can't be serious 🤦🏾‍♂️ Like are people not thinking 🧐

— HJR III™💎 (@__RUGGS) July 9, 2020

The protocols also indicate that coaches and players who aren't likely to feature in the game are "strongly encouraged" to wear a mask on the sidelines, although wearing one will not be made mandatory.

Players and coaches will have to submit temperature checks before games and won't be allowed to take part if they have a fever of over 100.4 degrees. Teams have to ensure arrangements are in place to prevent players from sharing water cups or bottles.

Additionally, teams will be required to spend the night before games at a hotel even ahead of home games and media will be banned from entering locker rooms this season.

In May, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned that football was the perfect environment for the novel coronavirus to spread.

"Sweat as such won't transmit it. But if people are in such close contact as football players are on every single play, then that's the perfect set up for spreading," he told NBC's Peter King.

"I would think that if there is an infected football player on the field—a middle linebacker, a tackle, whoever it is it—as soon as they hit the next guy, the chances are that they will be shedding virus all over that person.

"If you really want to be in a situation where you want to be absolutely certain, you'd test all the players before the game."

While the NBA, MLS and the NHL were forced to suspend their seasons when the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March and the MLB had to postpone Opening Day indefinitely, football emerged relatively unscathed from the first four months.

In April the NFL held its draft remotely instead of in Las Vegas as planned, but the following month it released its 256-game regular-season slate and reiterated its desire to kick-off the 2020 season as scheduled on September 10.

In May, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross suggested spectators may be allowed in the stadiums by the time the NFL season kicks off, but the recent spike in coronavirus cases across the U.S. appears to have all but ruled that out.

Over 59,460 new cases were announced across the country on Thursday and the U.S. has broken daily-case records in five of the last nine days.

As of Friday morning almost 3.1 million cases of coronavirus had been reported in the U.S., by far the highest tally of any country in the world.

Of the over 554,900 deaths recorded worldwide so far, more than 133,200 have been in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.

There have been over 12.2 million confirmed cases globally since the outbreak of coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year.

Deshaun Watson, NFL, Houston Texans
Quarterback Deshaun Watson (L) of the Houston Texans poses with wide receiver Sammy Watkins (R) of the Kansas City Chiefs following the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 12 in Kansas City, Missouri. NFL players won't be allowed to swap jerseys in the upcoming season due to measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Peter G. Aiken/Getty