Falcons' Rich McKay on reopening of team facilities in Flowery Branch. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Falcons’ facilities open under NFL, Hall County guidelines 

With 15 people on hand Tuesday, the Falcons reopened their facilities, which had been closed since March 13 because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Staff members, including the coaching and football-operations staffs, have been working virtually from home. 

“We are going to open gradually,” McKay said on a video conference call Tuesday. “That’s kind of the word we used last night. We had a (virtual) call with everybody that works in Flowery Branch and described to them what we were going to do.”

Key operational staff members were on hand. 

“So today, it’s about 15 people here,” McKay said. “It’s all people that have operational duties that make the building run and get back to how we are going to operate.”

The Falcons will open their sprawling facility in phases while following the NFL’s protocols and local and state law. 

“We want to understand all of the protocols,” McKay said. “How they are going to operate. What do we need to change? How can we make it as safe as an environment as it can be. That’s how we started. We are pretty comfortable with that.”

The Falcons will increase the amount of workers. 

“We’ll get all the way up to 20 people by Friday,” McKay said. “We are only going to go from 15 to 20. Next week, we’ll probably get up to 30. Then we won’t get bigger than that for probably about three weeks with the chance that the coaches come back or whatever that may be, and then we’ll get up to that 75 number.”

In a memo sent to the 32 teams Friday by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, he stressed that the clubs must be “in compliance with any additional public health requirements in their jurisdiction, and have implemented the protocols that were developed by (league medical officer) Dr. (Allen) Sills and distributed to all clubs on May 6.”

“For us, we started with the state’s shelter-in-place rules that have been modified,” McKay said. “We’ve had our lawyers look at that. We then we went back and looked at Hall County (regulations) because that is where Flowery Branch is located. We complied with that, and we feel good along those lines.”

The league followed up with all of the teams Friday.  

“We told them we would be in compliance, and we are,” McKay said. 

The Falcons have some security guards and engineers working at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but are not ready to have their workers return to that site yet. 

“We are not open until June 1,” McKay said. “We have gone in to see the facility and talk about how many people we can sit at each area. It’s an open-office configuration.”

At their Flowery Branch facility, the Falcons, per league guidelines, must have one entrance for workers to enter and exit. All social-distancing rules must be followed, and employees have to wear masks unless they are in an enclosed office. 

Also, all of the employees have their temperature checked upon entry. 

“You’re going to be asked a series of questions,” McKay said. “You’re going to put your gloves on and wear your mask unless you’re in an enclosed office.”

The Falcons did not open the cafeteria or any of the team meeting rooms.

“We are trying, over the next couple of weeks, to take a small group of us and move around this building a lot and try to figure out where the areas that give us the most challenges are,” McKay said. “Then make sure we are in compliance to go forward. That’s kind of how we are operating now.”

Most players will not be allowed in the building during this process. 

The Falcons have “four or five” players receiving rehabilitation treatment, and they are allowed in the building. The league’s travel ban has kept some newly acquired players, such as running back Todd Gurley, from receiving their physicals. 

Falcons trainer Marty Lauzon is on the league’s COVID-19 committee.

“I think the league has done a really good job of getting a lot input from a lot of teams, but ultimately it’s going to be up to the medical people because it’s all about health and safety at the end,” McKay said. 

McKay didn’t want to address whether the Falcons expect to play in front of fans this season. 

“In our mind, that’s pure speculation, and we would be trying to really have answers in some instances when we may not even know the question,” McKay said. 

The NFL is watching as Major League Baseball and the NBA are trying to come up with solutions.  

“We’re trying to learn from others and not get ahead of ourselves,” McKay said. 


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