As with so many other aspects of our lives, COVID-19 has long since entered the reality of the NFL. It caused the postponement of many games last season, and forced many players to miss others, though, fortunately, none ever had to be canceled entirely.
The league is obviously hoping for a much different experience this year, and their focus is on trying to encourage as many of their players as possible to get vaccinated. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been among those leading the way, something head coach Mike Tomlin talked about during minicamp.
“We’re doing really well relative to the rest of our peers, and we just hope to continue to work in that area, and hopefully it’s a win for us as we proceed”, he said last week. “I think we had a couple [players get vaccinated] today. I don’t know the exact percentage, but from what I understand, we’re tops in the league in this process”.
According to Ed Bouchette of The Athletic, the Steelers are already clear of the 85 percent mark with respect to vaccinated players, something that he mentioned in response to a question that was asked of him in a mailbag post through his outlet.
“The Steelers have more than 85 percent fully vaccinated players, which may be tops in the league”, he wrote. “The NFL has not yet issued any kind of team-wide threshold for rolling back protocols based on a high percentage of vaccinated players, but in Major League Baseball, a team can roll back virus protocols if they have 85 percent of their players vaccinated”.
While the league has already issued multiple memos pertaining to what the COVID-19 protocols will look like for training camp and the preseason, there is still much to be finalized. Like last season, that could continue to evolve over the course of the year.
But the idea of allowing for team-wide relaxation of certain restrictions once a roster hits a certain vaccination percentage is one that has been thrown around for months now, and it certainly feels like it’s inevitable that something in that vein will eventually be part of the formal protocols.
The NFL has tried to encourage players to get vaccinated through its protocols, as those who are vaccinated will have far fewer restrictions placed on them. Unvaccinated personnel will still have to be tested daily, including during their bye week, while those who are fully vaccinated will only be tested every other week. They also won’t have to wear masks or socially distance around other vaccinated individuals.
Not every player will get vaccinated, however, and that is their prerogative, something the NFLPA made explicitly clear yesterday, reiterating to its players that nobody should be pressuring them to get the vaccine if they don’t want to, nor can they lose their job for not complying with such demands.