Fans will be back in the stands, and things are slowly returning to normal, but COVID-19 will still loom over the 2021 NFL season in some capacity. On Wednesday afternoon, the league and the NFLPA agreed to the COVID protocols for the upcoming season, a source told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).
There are going to be two sets of rules for those who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t been. Pelissero tweeted out the memo detailing the restrictions for unvaccinated players, and they’re significant. Unvaccinated players will have to be tested every day, wear masks in the facility, and travel to road games separately. When on the road they can’t have guests at their hotels or see friends and family. As Pelissero writes in his thread, it essentially boils down to “fly by yourself and sit in your room until kickoff.”
Importantly, players who have been vaccinated won’t have to isolate for five days if they’re deemed a high-risk close contact to someone who tests positive. Those close contact isolations caused a lot of key players to miss games in 2020.
Unvaccinated players will also be hit with fines of up to $50K for things like going to bars or large gatherings. Clearly, the league is doing everything they can to push players to get vaccinated without actually mandating it.
As for what the numbers look like, Pelissero tweeted yesterday that a source told him over 50 percent of NFL players had received at least a first dose of a vaccine. He added that every team has at least 90 percent of their Tier 1/2 staff vaccinated, so clearly coaches and employees are getting it at a higher rate than players. 16 of 32 teams have had at least 51 of the 90 players on their offseason rosters vaccinated.
It’s a lot to digest, and there are significant implications here. A number of high profile players have indicated they aren’t planning on getting the vaccine, so it’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out. If one thing is for certain, it’s that there will be some drama to come as a result of these new protocols.