- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
With the news Wednesday that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, tested positive for COVID-19, there's increased scrutiny about the NFL's health and safety protocols designed to protect players, coaches, media and fans.
After it was revealed that Rodgers is unvaccinated despite telling reporters in August that he was "immunized," he will now miss at least Sunday's key matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. He could potentially miss Week 10's game against the Seahawks, too.
The case has opened up questions about whether the Packers have been in violation of the league's protocols and whether discipline could be forthcoming.
Here's an updated look at the latest on where the NFL stands in terms of its COVID-19 health and safety protocols and vaccination policies.
Do NFL players have to be vaccinated?
The NFL and its franchises have strict rules in place about support staff and administration that mandates all employees who have contact with players to be fully vaccinated, a league spokesman confirmed to USA TODAY Sports. Yet players and coaches are not subject to any mandates, in large part, because of labor concerns.
Across all the major sports leagues, the respective unions have rejected mandates largely because they would need to be collectively bargained. Typically, unions do not want to appear as though they are conceding anything at all during negotiations for fear that ownership and league management would view it as a weakness or an invitation that the players associations are willing to concede elsewhere. This issue is only complicated further because the matter involves what players put into their most valuable assets: their bodies.
Rather than mandate a vaccine, NFL Players Association president JC Tretter, a center for the Cleveland Browns, wrote in an editorial posted to the NFLPA's website in September that called for daily testing of both vaccinated and unvaccinated players.
"The scary part for our business is not the fear that the protocols or the vaccines don’t work now; it’s that we have cases rising in many cities and communities as a result of variants, which may force us to adjust," Tretter wrote. "As I messaged to everyone at this time last year, it is important to be vigilant, but the panic and frenzy the NFL created was not helpful. We know we can work together to do this and play a great NFL season as we showed last year. That comes with a commitment to collaboration and communication ..."
What is the vaccination rate of NFL players?
For the two-week period from Oct. 3-16, the span for which the most recent data are available, 94.1% of all NFL players are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an NFL press release. According to the NFL, there were 2,422 players in the league during that two-week period. Using the league's data, that means 2,279 are vaccinated and 143 were unvaccinated during that period.
Nearly 100% of NFL personnel are vaccinated, per the release.
Thirty of the NFL's 32 teams have a player vaccination rate of 95% of more.
Is the NFL still testing for COVID-19?
Yes. Per the league's COVID-19 health and safety protocols, regular testing is still taking place for both vaccinated and unvaccinated players and staff. The league said that for the two-week stretch from Oct. 3-16, there were 17,114 COVID-19 tests administered to a total of 6,504 people.
Within that population, 2,422 were players and 4,082 were personnel.
Per the league's data, players accounted for 14 new confirmed positive results and personnel accounted for 26, bringing the the the overall positivity rate to 0.6% for the two-week period.
What protocols do unvaccinated players have to follow?
The most prominent requirement comes with testing. Unvaccinated players are required to test daily, as opposed to weekly tests required of vaccinated players. Vaccinated players, however, could ask for increased testing, if desired.
Unvaccinated players are required to wear face masks at all times while at the team's facilities and are also required to observe social distancing. The mask usage also applies when in teams' weight rooms. Unvaccinated players are not allowed to eat meals with teammates and cannot do any media or marketing opportunities when traveling. They also aren't allowed to use the sauna or steam rooms in the team facilities and are not allowed to leave the team hotel or have any outside interactions with people on the road who are not affiliated with their respective team.
The lockers of unvaccinated players are required to be six feet apart from the ones of other players. Unvaccinated players are also prohibited from traveling on team charters and must make their way to road games separately. Upon landing, they need to show negative COVID-19 tests in order to rejoin the team. Upon arrival, unvaccinated players are not allowed to eat with the rest of their teammates and are not allowed to mingle with other teammates. They also are barred from using a hotel's common spaces, such as the pool.
They are restricted from attending indoor events — such as bars, nightclubs, concerts or other events — with more than 15 people where masks were not being worn.
Unvaccinated players are also subject to a five-day quarantine period if they are deemed to be close contacts of a person infected with COVID-19.
"I wouldn’t have got the vaccine without the protocols they are enforcing on us," Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said in July. "It’s a personal decision for everyone. Everyone has to make the best decision for them and their families. That is kind of our mindset in this building, but they are trying to force your hand. ...
"I love this game, I love this team, I want to be able to compete and do the things that are important to build chemistry and win football games. Ultimately, that forced my hand into getting the vaccine."
If an unvaccinated player tests positive for COVID-19, they are required to isolate for a minimum of 10 days away from the team facility. While in isolation, players are not allowed to have any direct contact with teammates or personnel. That isolation could be extended if the player exhibits symptoms after the 10 days. Players are requited to show two negative PCR tests that are 24 hours apart to be cleared to return to the facility.
Are players subject to discipline if found to be in violation of the league's protocols?
Unvaccinated players who don't abide by the league's protocols are subject to fines, and even possible suspension. Per the league's revised protocols, a first-time offender will be fined $14,650. Repeat offenders could result in suspension of up to four weeks or a fine of a week's salary.
How does the league ensure its COVID-19 protocols are being followed?
The short answer is, it doesn't. In the statement the NFL issued Wednesday indicating that it would be reviewing whether the Packers were found to have been in violation of the league's protocols, the league reiterated that it puts the onus of enforcement on the individual teams.
"The primary responsibility for the enforcement of Covid protocols within club facilities rests with each club," the league said in its statement.
The NFL, therefore, appears to be focused most on issuing discipline when violations have been uncovered.
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Do NFL players have to be vaccinated for COVID-19? All rules explained