NFL will fine unvaccinated players over $14,000 each time they break protocol

Hot on the heels of the memo to teams about the consequences of outbreaks among unvaccinated players, the NFL is taking more steps to make sure unvaccinated players don't put themselves or others at risk to catch and spread COVID-19.

ESPN's Jenna Laine reported that the NFL will fine unvaccinated players $14,650 every time they're caught breaking health and safety protocols.

The fine was first revealed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who told the Tampa Bay Times that Buccaneers players would be fined over $14,000 every time they break a rule. It was first thought to be a rule Arians himself had instituted, but Arians told ESPN that the fine is "NFL policy." NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to ESPN that Arians was correct and that the rule comes from them and not the individual teams.

When speaking with the Tampa Bay Times, Arians said that he's thinking about COVID the same way he thinks about regular injuries: prevention is key. And following the NFL's training camp and preseason COVID-19 protocol is the easiest way to prevent unvaccinated players from getting and spreading the virus.

“It’s just a matter of staying healthy,” Arians said to the Tampa Bay Times. “You’re not going to win with third stringers. I’ve been down that road. We had a really, really good team in Arizona. We lose (running back) David Johnson, we lose (quarterback) Carson Palmer, we lose our tackle. You can’t control injuries. If they happen, they happen.

“We were very fortunate last year, and our training staff and sports science staff was terrific, and that had a lot to do with injury prevention.”

Protocols for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated

The NFL hasn't released health and safety protocols for the regular season, but they have released protocols for the rapidly approaching training camp and preseason. With the vaccine widely available in the United States, the protocols are different for vaccinated players than they are for unvaccinated players. And those differences aren't small. They're big, honking differences that will make life much more difficult for unvaccinated players.

Unvaccinated players will have to get tested for COVID every day. They'll have to wear masks at the club facility and during team travel. They have to continue practicing social distancing at the facility and even in the meal room. They can't do any social media or sponsorship activities and they can't leave the team hotel to eat at restaurants. Vaccinated players have exactly zero of those restrictions.

Judging by the two sets of protocols, there will be plenty of chances for Arians and his staff to ding unvaccinated players if they're not following the rules. However, he's hopeful that the number of unvaccinated players will be small. While Arians wouldn't reveal how many Bucs players have been vaccinated, he told the Tampa Bay Times that he believes they'll be over the 85 percent threshold by the time they make their final roster cuts.

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