While the NFL and the NFLPA are hoping that everybody decides to and is able to receive a vaccination against Covid-19, the league and players union have no intention to mandate that players do so, the league’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills, said on Thursday.
This is hardly a shock, frankly, and not really even something I’d imagined that they were considering. But as we are seeing with CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated, players who are vaccinated will likely have certain freedoms from restrictions tied to Covid-19 protocols than those who choose not to get vaccinated will still have to go through.
Earlier in the week, the league sent out a memo stating that, while teams this year will be permitted to have a presence in their draft room, or ‘war room’, on game day, teams who have members in the room who are not fully vaccinated will be subjected to more stringent protocols than a team in which all members in their room have gone through whatever full cycle is applicable to the specific vaccine that they received.
As you might recall from a year ago, the league’s Covid-19 protocols literally evolved on a week-to-week basis, a sort of trial and error partially based on what worked and what didn’t work, as well as on the continually evolving stream of information available to them about the virus.
The league had to delay, move around, and even postpone a multitude of games last season due to teams dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks in their facilities. The Pittsburgh Steelers in particular were victimized, having had not one but two games postponed, one for six days, the other for weeks, which took away their bye week.
There will be a clear incentive for individuals to receive the vaccine simply because they will have more freedoms. I would imagine that the protocols will remain largely the same as they were last season for those who are not vaccinated, including daily testing and major limitations on what they are permitted to do outside of the facility.
Basically, if players want to have a life outside of football this Fall, they should probably get vaccinated, because I think it’s safe to assume that the NFL will greatly loosen restrictions on activities and gatherings that players will be permitted to engage in if they have the vaccine.
But at the end of the day, it’s a personal choice for each player to make. I’m sure it will be made available to them should they decide to get it, but there will be no punishment, nor bar from employment or playing time, for those who go unvaccinated—they will simply be required to remain safe, as everybody did last season.