The NFL has released its 2021 policies for COVID-19.
They are taking an aggressive approach in direct contrast to how they handled the pandemic last season.
The goal is to minimize any disruption associated with COVID-19 outbreaks during the season.
Here are a few of the policy highlights.
1. Games Could Be Forfeited
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 22, 2021
The league has indicated that if a game cannot be rescheduled during the 18 week season due to a team outbreak, the result will be a forfeit.
The NFL is trying to protect the opposing team in this situation.
It is unclear to what extent this policy will be carried out.
Will bye weeks still be juggled and changed to accommodate an outbreak?
Recall that the Pittsburgh Steelers had their bye week moved last year because of an outbreak affecting the Tennessee Titans.
It was scheduled for Week 8 and ended up occurring on Week 4.
Could that have impacted the team’s loss of momentum down the stretch?
The NFL is making it abundantly clear that there will not be a 19th week added to the regular season to deal with rescheduled games because of COVID-19.
2. Players Won’t Be Paid
In the event of a forfeit, neither team’s players will be paid for that week’s game.
It is not clear how this will work, but the NFL has said the team responsible for the forfeited game (i.e. the team experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak) will cover the financial losses for its opponent.
That may mean if the visiting team is forced to forfeit because of COVID-19, will the spectator’s refunded ticket money come from that team?
3. Different Protocols For Vaccinated And Unvaccinated Players
Last season because a vaccine was not available, there was one set of COVID-19 protocols for all players and staff.
That is not the case this year.
Vaccinated players who test positive and are asymptomatic can return to practice or playing if they have two negative tests 24 hours apart.
Unvaccinated players will be subjected to the 2020 rule of 10 days of isolation.
In addition, unvaccinated players will be fined $14,650 for each occasion they fail to wear a mask or comply with the COVID-19 protocols.
NFL to fine unvaccinated players $14,650 for COVID-19 protocol violations. https://t.co/j79mSr9I8Z
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 24, 2021
They will be subjected to daily testing and have general restrictions imposed upon them to keep the entire organization safe.
The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols for 2021 training camp and preseason, per source.
How different will life by for vaccinated and unvaccinated players? From the memo that just went to clubs: pic.twitter.com/8yMPW0JBWZ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 16, 2021
This information started to come out in mid-June, and more details regarding penalties came out a few days ago.
The NFL is a business that clearly does not want its operations disrupted during an expanded 18 week season (with 17 regular-season games) when many stadiums are planning to have 100% fan capacity.
These rules were released in sufficient time for players to make informed individual decisions regarding vaccination before the season begins in September.
It appears to be a well thought out plan; however, there is one area not adequately addressed.
What will happen if a massive outbreak occurs among vaccinated players?
We are unfortunately seeing vaccinated athletes test positive at the Tokyo Olympics so it is a possibility that the NFL could have to deal with.