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NFL COVID-19 rules explained: Implications of the league's new vaccine policy

Buffalo Bills v Arizona Cardinals
Buffalo Bills v Arizona Cardinals
Henrique Bulio

The NFL sent a memorandum to all 32 franchises regarding discipline and consequences if an outbreak happens during the season.

While the differences between health and safety protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players have been laid down for months, the league has now informed the teams of the consequences they will face in case an outbreak happens.

The penalties can vary from the same mandatory 10-day quarantine to forfeiting a game and missing a week's salary.

Why the NFL changed its stance on vaccination

The league doesn't want to rearrange its 272-game schedule at any point during the season like it had to with some games last year because of outbreaks. Competitive disadvantage can become a problem if the schedule needs to be changed, and high vaccination rates are the best way to prevent it.

If an outbreak spikes among vaccinated players and a game has to be rescheduled or canceled, the league will minimize the competitive and financial burden on both participating teams.

But if a game gets canceled or rescheduled because of unvaccinated players testing positive, then the team suffering the outbreak will also bear the brunt of the league's sanctions. Teams will have to forfeit the game and be credited with a loss.

According to today's memo, the NFL also said that teams with an outbreak among unvaccinated players or staff would be subject to financial losses and potential discipline from Roger Goodell, the league's commissioner.

NFL players react to the league's new COVID-19 rules

As soon as details about the league's new COVID-19 policy emerged, players went to Twitter to express their feelings about it.

Arizona Cardinals star DeAndre Hopkins tweeted that he is "questioning his future" because "he may hurt his team because he doesn't want to get the vaccine." The tweet has since been deleted. Leonard Fournette and Matthew Judon also expressed dissatisfaction with the new policies.

Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams
Arizona Cardinals v Los Angeles Rams

Before today, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley was highly vocal against getting the vaccine, saying that "he would consider retirement if he were obligated to take the shot to play in the NFL."

As of today, more than half of the NFL teams have vaccination rates of over 80%. With today's memorandum and the health and safety protocols for the 2021 season, the message is clear: get vaccinated, or the consequences will be enormous.


Edited by Jay Lokegaonkar

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