NFL, NFLPA Issue New COVID-19 Protocols For 2021 Outlining Differences For Vaccinated; In-Person Interviews Set To Return

The NFL and NFLPA just sent out a memo to teams with an updated COVID-19 protocol sheet for the 2021 preseason and training camp. The memo seeks to highlights the separate protocols that will exist for players who are vaccinated and those who are not.

Perhaps most notably, players who are not vaccinated will not have to take a COVID test on a daily basis, while those who are not, will. Vaccinated individuals may refrain from wearing masks in the facility and during travel, and from physical distancing (with other vaccinated individuals).

Arguably the biggest difference, as was expected, in how vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will be treated, is that those who are vaccinated will not be required to quarantine if they experience a ‘High Risk exposure to COVID’. Many players missed games last year because they were in quarantine but never tested positive themselves.

In the more personal department, vaccinated individuals during travel will be permitted to interact with family and friends. Unvaccinated individuals will remain in the same status as last year; they may not interact with those outside the team, and may not leave the hotel to eat.

On another matter, the protocol also addresses the media, and states that in-person interviews will return for members who are fully vaccinated, provided that they maintain physical distancing. It’s unclear what this means long-term for the continuation of Zoom press conferences, but surely the members of the media will be rejoicing about this.

As the memo makes clear, there are clear competitive and personal advantages for players to get vaccinated. In addition to the aforementioned, they may eat with and interact with their vaccinated peers in the cafeteria. They may use the sauna facilities. The weight room will have no capacity limits when everybody is vaccinated. And they will be permitted to engage in marketing and sponsorship activities.

But there is no bigger advantage than avoiding time lost because of exposure, or worse, infection. The vaccine cannot promise 100 percent immunity against contracting the virus, but it can make it much less likely that you do, and in the event that you do, you’re less likely to have symptoms, and thus would be able to return faster.

According to reports yesterday, more than half of players currently on rosters are already vaccinated, with 16 games having at least 51 players vaccinated, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are said to be at or near the very top of the list in that regard.

There has been talk of a threshold at which restrictions for an entire team would be loosened once a certain percentage of individuals are vaccinated. If that is coming, this memo does not address that.

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