NFL COVID rules could mean forfeits, fines for unvaccinated outbreaks

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NFL sends strong message to teams and players: Get the vaccine originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

The NFL on Thursday sent a very strong message to its teams and players: Get the vaccine.

Or else.

As teams begin reporting for training camp before the 2021 season, the NFL sent out a no-nonsense memo that was obtained by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The biggest news from it was that if a team has a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players and a game cannot be rescheduled, that team is subject to forfeit the game. And if a game gets canceled because of COVID-19, none of the players from that game will get paid.

It’s clear the league is no longer playing around.

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While the NFL has not mandated players or coaches get vaccinated, the message all along has been clear. It had already prepared to make life much harder for those who remained unvaccinated and now there are penalties associated with unvaccinated outbreaks.

In June it was reported that the Seahawks coaching staff was 100% vaccinated. As for the players, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters that there was chance of getting close to 100%. "We’ve got a shot at it because we’re far enough along." Carroll said. "We have a little vaccination event going on right now after this practice, so we’ll see how those numbers show. But we’re not in bad shape, we’re within striking distance of making it. I think the bulk of the team will be done… We’re going to be hovering around 70% here soon, maybe by the end of the week, and we’ll see where that takes us from there.”

“Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in the memo. “A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game.”

In addition to the threat of forfeiture, the memo also states that a club with an unvaccinated outbreak that forces a rescheduled game will be “responsible for all additional expenses incurred but the opposing team and will also be required to pay any shortfall between actual and expected payment to the VTS pool.”

Here are some more details from the memo:

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Basically, the league is focused on playing its 2021 season over 18 weeks (17 games for each team) and if any club gets in the way of that, it will have to pay the price.

From Goodell in the memo: “We do not anticipate adding a '19th week' to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season."

Here are some other key points from the sharply worded memo:

• This is a big one: “If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receiver their weekly paragraph 5 salary.”

That’s HUGE. That means no game checks for that week, which is the biggest incentive for players to get vaccinated yet.

• The NFL says nearly all 32 teams have a vaccination rate of nearly 100% among Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff. Meanwhile, the league says that nearly 75% of players are in the process of being vaccinated. And more than half of the teams in the NFL have player vaccination rates over 80%.

There is a significant difference in the process if a vaccinated person tests positive vs. if an unvaccinated player tests positive. If a vaccinated person tests positive and is asymptomatic, they will be permitted to return after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. And those who are vaccinated will not be forced to quarantine after close contact with someone who tests positive.

Meanwhile, an unvaccinated person who tests positive will be isolated for 10 days and will be able to return once they’re asymptomatic. If an unvaccinated person comes in contact with someone who tests positive, they must be quarantined for five days.