(Reuters) -The National Football League informed its teams on Thursday that COVID-19 outbreaks among non-vaccinated players during the 2021 season could lead to forfeits and loss of pay if games cannot be rescheduled.
According to a memo sent by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the league has no plans to add a 19th week to the regular 18-week season to accommodate any games that cannot be rescheduled.
"As we learned last year, we can play a full season if we maintain a firm commitment to adhering to our health and safety protocols and to making needed adjustments in response to changing conditions," Goodell wrote.
"These operating principles are designed to allow us to play a full season in a safe and responsible way and address possible competitive or financial issues fairly."
If a game postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players cannot be rescheduled, then the club with the infected players will forfeit the game and members of both teams will not be paid for it.
In addition, the team deemed responsible for the canceled game due to unvaccinated players would be required to cover all financial losses and also be subject to potential discipline from Goodell.
The decision on whether to reschedule a postponed game will be dependent on a variety of factors, including health and safety reasons at the recommendation of medical experts, schedule integrity and considerations of stadium availability.
According to the memo, more than 75% of players are in the process of being vaccinated, and more than half the 32 clubs have vaccination rates greater than 80% of their players.
The 2021 NFL regular season is scheduled to begin Sept. 9.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Dan Grebler)