DeMaurice Smith: Players will be paid whether they are vaccinated or not

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On the surface, the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to the simple proposition that players can’t be cut for not being vaccinated. Just below the surface, the situation becomes far more complex.

During a Thursday press conference, NFLPA executive director De Smith said that players can’t be cut for not being vaccinated. He also said that players will be paid, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.

The reality is that, all things being equal, teams will be more inclined to cut players who haven’t been vaccinated. The mere fact that players who land on the COVID-19 reserve list will be paid this year makes it even more likely that teams will err on the side of keeping players who have been vaccinated, and cutting players who haven’t been.

As long as coaches and General Managers don’t admit that they were influenced by vaccine status and otherwise create no paper trail of their thinking, it will be impossible to prove that a player’s status as unvaccinated caused or contributed to the loss of a roster spot in favor of a player who chose to get vaccinated.

Again, this doesn’t mean stars who don’t get vaccinated will be at risk. Beyond the clear and obvious first-teamers, however, vaccination status becomes another factor in the objective, dispassionate assessment that coaches and General Managers constantly make regarding the players to keep and the players to cut.

As Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians said Thursday, the more players get vaccinated, the quicker a team returns to normal. And the more normal things are, the less distractions a team will have to deal with. Also, from a pure dollars-and-cents standpoint, owners will prefer paying players who are less likely to suddenly become unavailable due to a positive COVID test.

That’s the fact that fans who suddenly care deeply about player rights (after years of not giving a shit about the subject at all) are forgetting. The unvaccinated starting quarterback on their favorite team (or, perhaps more importantly, on their fantasy team) will still be tested every single day — and will remain susceptible to being abruptly yanked from the roster, possibly on the day of a game.

DeMaurice Smith: Players will be paid whether they are vaccinated or not originally appeared on Pro Football Talk