The NFL was forced to put two separate COVID-19 protocols in place heading into the 2021 season: one for vaccinated personnel and the other for unvaccinated ones.
Three teams (Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Las Vegas Raiders) have seemed to reach 100% vaccination among their players. A total of 27 of the 32 teams in the NFL are at least 90% vaccinated.
Overall, the NFL is up to 93.5% vaccinated, but recent reports cast some doubt on these numbers. Some NFL players could be using fake COVID-19 vaccine cards that are helping them slip through the protocols.
These fake COVID vaccination cards can be easily ordered online from popular sites, and are rapidly growing in popularity. The issue came to the fore after two agents reported to Defector.com that players had asked for help in obtaining these cards, which the agents declined to do.
Some players say their teammates already have fake COVID-19 vaccine cards. These players have told their teams that there's a loophole to get around the strict NFL COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated players.
If you're asking what the big deal is with getting vaccines and fake cards, it has to do with the precautions and protocols the NFL has in place regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated players.
Players who are unvaccinated must wear a mask around their team and have restrictions on what they can access at the team facilities. When it comes to close contact, the NFL requires unvaccinated players to quarantine for five days regardless of a negative test.
If they test positive for COVID-19, they are mandated to go into ten days of quarantine. They also need to be symptom-free for ten days before they are allowed to return. An unvaccinated player could miss one or two games with a close contact, even if he has no symptoms or positive tests. Vaccinated ones only miss 24 hours despite being with a close contact.
How many players are exploiting the loophole in NFL's COVID-19 regulations?
According to Defector, they were given details from an NFL agent who estimates 10 to 15% of the players have fake vaccine cards to get around the stringent guidelines. There was an interesting quote as well:
"You're talking about the NFL. These guys do anything they can to fudge a weed test or PED test."
A lot of NFL players are apparently taking advantage of this loophole. Another NFL agent, speaking with Defector, has been told that a big-name player in his client's team has a fake card, and that many players are 'aware' of the 'hack'.
Defector even reached out to more than a dozen NFL players to get information on the fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, but only three responded. Two had received the vaccine from their team medical staff as witnesses. The third one got it done at a local supermarket's pharmacy.
His team was unaware he got the vaccine until he sent them a photo of his vaccine card. One of the two players who got the vaccine with the medical staff has said that he doesn't know of any specific player who has possession of a fake COVID-19 card. But he has heard whispers of the fake cards going around.
Meanwhile, the NFL find themselves in a tight corner as they try to crack down on false cards. A player's doctor cannot release medical records of his client to the NFL or NFL teams without consent from the player. The same goes for the local pharmacist at the Walgreens or CVS.
So the NFL has to have team trainers and medical staff check every player's physical COVID-19 vaccine card and look for anything suspicious in them. Some trainers track the information on the vaccine cards, and check by logging into a system.
They are no longer taking player's word that they have the vaccine, without seeing the physical card, real or fake.
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It is a developing story and one that could turn into a much larger one, which could impact the season. If players are lying about being vaccinated, it could lead to outbreaks like in the 2020 season. That could lead to teams ending up forfeiting games, especially later in the season when every win and loss matters more. There could even be severe legal repercussions.