The COVID-19 vaccine has the propensity to be a contentious topic, but it is one that we have to brush up against at times, since it does have ties to what we do here. As we saw last season, the virus can have an impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ season, whether in their own locker room or that of their opponents’, which forced two of their games to be delayed in 2020.
While no players are going to be required to receive the vaccine, and the NFL has even already gone out of its way to forewarn teams that they are under no circumstances permitted to release a player on the grounds of their unwillingness to get vaccinated, the reality is that there will be separate protocols for players who are vaccinated and those who are not.
There is a scientific basis for this—those who are vaccinated are less likely to contract the virus, less likely to suffer a serious reaction if infected, and may possibly even be less likely to spread the virus—but there’s no doubt that incentivization is a motivating factor as well.
The NFL wants as many players as possible to get vaccinated, because the more players who have an immunity to the virus, the less the chances are of there being a disruption to their schedule, or to have games watered down by talent being made unavailable because they’re on the Reserve/COVID-19 List.
This isn’t even an open secret. It’s just known. While formal guidelines are still in the works, players who are vaccinated should expect to not have to wear masks in the team facility, while their unvaccinated peers will have to. They will have casual access to different parts of the building. They will not have to quarantine if they are a close contact of a positive case, as happened to numerous Steelers last year, including Eric Ebron. This leads many to believe that, when players start seeing this with their own eyes, it will persuade many to get vaccinated—which is the league’s hope.
“My prediction: when unvaccinated players get to camp and see that their vaccinated teammates don’t have to wear masks, can eat in the dining area, can hang out in the weight room, etc., many players who weren’t going to get vaccinated will do so”, Amy Trask wrote on Twitter. “Incentives are very compelling”.
My prediction: when unvaccinated players get to camp and see that their vaccinated teammates don’t have to wear masks, can eat in the dining area, can hang out in the weight room, etc., many players who weren’t going to get vaccinated will do so – incentives are very compelling.
— Amy Trask (@AmyTrask) June 13, 2021
Already, there have been some players who publicly hinted at their reluctance to get vaccinated, such as Sam Darnold and Montez Sweat. I sincerely doubt that any team is going to have 100 percent of its roster vaccinated, but there is a belief that there will be a protocol put in place that teams who have at least 85 percent of their players vaccinated will have more restrictions lifted as an organization—another incentive on players to get vaccinated, which no doubt will come with some pressure.