NFL: Goodell Incentivizes Vaccinations With Forfeit Threat

NFL: Goodell Incentivizes Vaccinations With Forfeit Threat
The NFL took perhaps its strongest step yet in all but forcing players to become vaccinated on Thursday, telling teams that games will not be rescheduled this season due to a team outbreak and a club that cannot play because of players with COVID-19 will forfeit the game.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the news on Thursday. The league moved multiple games last season because of COVID outbreaks on teams, most notably moving a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans scheduled for week 4 back to week 7 because of an outbreak on the Titans. An outbreak on the Baltimore Ravens forced the team’s spotlight Thanksgiving Day game against the Steelers to be postponed nearly a full week as well.

Several other games throughout the season were rescheduled because of the Week 4 outbreak on the Titans. A few others were delayed one or two days because of outbreaks but not more than a week. Other games at the end of the season were played despite teams having weakened rosters; the Denver Broncos memorably lost at home to the New Orleans Saints while not having any quarterbacks eligible to play, forcing a practice-squad wide receiver under center, while the Cleveland Browns lost at the New York Jets with almost its entire wide receiver corps out because of positive tests and contact tracing.

But this year, the league told teams, “if a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams,” and the game will be registered as a forfeit. The memo was sent two days after the Southeastern Conference said that it would have games forfeited by teams who are unable to have the minimum number of eligible players available as well.

Notably for the NFL compared to college football, “if a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week scheduled due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary,” the NFL’s memo said, adding that the team responsible for the cancelled game due to unvaccinated players will cover financial losses and be subject to potential discipline from the commissioner’s office.

While the league cannot mandate players to get vaccinated, Thursday’s memo is the latest in a series of moves to incentivize vaccination — almost to the point of mandating it. The NFL and NFL Players Association have already agreed on updated health and safety protocols for this season as training camps are about to open over the next week. Fully vaccinated players do not have to wear masks or undergo daily testing. Players not fully vaccinated will have a daily COVID-19 test, wear masks, continue social distancing and will not be allowed to leave the team hotel when on the road.

The NFL has told those who are classified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 employees of teams that they must be vaccinated or they cannot interact with players. Thursday’s memo says vaccinated players or staff who test positive and are asymptomatic can return after two negative tests 24 hours apart. Non-vaccinated players or staffers who are positive must isolate for 10 days.

NFL Network’s Judy Battista reported Thursday that more than 78 percent of players have had at least one shot and 14 clubs have at least 85 percent of players vaccinated.

NFL: Jerry Jones ‘Satisfied’ With Cowboys Vaccination Rate
Posted: Thursday, July 22

When the Dallas Cowboys reported to training camp in Oxnard, California, on Wednesday, the team had not reached the NFL’s 85 percent team vaccination threshold that would allow for an easing of COVID-19 restrictions — something that disappoints Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin.

“You’re not thinking right,” Irvin said at the opening of the Dallas chapter of Merging Vets & Players, which brings together combat veterans and former pro athletes. “If you’re not one of them teams [at the threshold], are you really thinking about winning a championship?”

The Associated Press reported as of last Friday that Washington and Indianapolis were under 50 percent vaccinated among their players while 13 teams are above 85 percent threshold. Nearly three-quarters of the league’s players have gotten at least one shot.

Dallas Owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday as few as five Cowboys have not made a pledge to get vaccinated at present, and a portion of players are “in the pipeline” toward becoming fully vaccinated. To hit the league’s 85 percent threshold and with 90 players on a training camp roster, 77 need to be vaccinated per team for restrictions to be eased.

The Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers reported Wednesday since they play the Hall of Fame Game on August 5. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can report as early as Saturday due to them playing in the regular-season opener on September 9 against Dallas. Teams are already releasing plans for fan events and league-wide practices later this month to build anticipation for the regular season, for which every team has been given approval to have their stadiums open 100 percent.

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