While the NFL has already stated clearly that the league and players union would not create a mandate for players to get a vaccine for Covid-19, it was intuitively obvious that there would be certain advantages—or rather fewer disadvantages—afforded to those who did opt to receive one of the multiple vaccines available.
A memo issued by the league’s management council last week spells out this reality, noting that the protocols would be revised, in accordance with CDC guidelines, that loosens certain safety precautions for those who are fully vaccinated.
“It is expected that the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols will be amended in the coming months to eliminate a number of significant restrictions for vaccinated individuals”, the memo read in part, “such as the need to participate in daily testing, quarantine periods due to close contact with an infected individual and/or refraining from social gatherings among other vaccinated individuals”.
Here’s the memo, which also says teams should procure sufficient COVID testing supplies before April 19, while also saying protocols “will be amended in the coming months to eliminate a number of significant restrictions for vaccinated individuals,” including daily testing. pic.twitter.com/EsAwO7ygQD
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 31, 2021
Every single one of these things affected the Pittsburgh Steelers in some way last season. With daily testing a requirement, and a five-day window in place before players from the outside would be permitted to participate, it greatly limited in-season, in-week flexibility.
The Steelers also had a number of players miss games because they were deemed a high-risk close contact of an individual who tested positive, even though the majority of them never tested positive themselves.
The CDC no longer recommends that vaccinated individuals who are not otherwise at high risk get tested and quarantine if they come in close contact with an individual who tests positive for Covid-19 and there are no other mitigating circumstances.
Tight end Eric Ebron missed the regular season finale last year because he and cornerback Joe Haden had gathered together so that their children could play. Haden tested positive, and Ebron was a close contact. Had he been vaccinated, he would not have been placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List if it occurred this season.
Close contacts led to some truly unusual situations last season, such as the Denver Broncos playing a game without a true quarterback because they were all high-risk close contacts of one another. Players being vaccinated would avoid such situations.
In addition to the basic relaxation for players, teams who achieve a certain vaccination percentage for their coaches and stuff could also see the relaxation of some restrictions in terms of meetings and locker room time, the memo notes.
All of these things are very much in line with our general understanding of the risks associated with Covid-19 and how vaccinations could mitigate those risks. Any finalized revision of the league’s Covid-19 Protocol will come in conjunction with professional medical guidance. But it will ultimately remain a personal choice for everybody whether or not they chose to get the vaccine, as it should be in this matter.