League Memo Notes $50,000 Fine For Refusing COVID-19 Test; Testing Frequency For Vaccinated Could Be Increased

We are already quickly learning that the 2021 season, at least in one major way, is going to be very much like the 2020 season. The NFL’s COVID-19 protocols evolved over the course of the year, virtually on a weekly basis. We are already seeing minor tweaks being made, and further alterations under consideration.

Via Tom Pelissero, for example, a memo sent to teams last night established fines for players, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, for failure to wear their contact tracing devices in the facility, which would set them back $14,650, and for failure to submit to COVID-19 testing, a fine of $50,000.

It is worth reminding that unvaccinated players will be required to submit to daily COVID-19 testing, as all players did last year—something that the NFLPA insisted upon—but vaccinated players as of now will be tested every other week.

However, Adam Schefter likewise reported that that guidance is already being revisited, with consideration of moving up the cadence. Since the beginning of training camp, 13 NFL staffers and four players who had been fully vaccinated tested positive. Those were numbers sent out on Monday, before most teams even reported to training camp, but the entry period is when move of the positives register.

He notes that the NFL and the NFLPA have held discussions over whether or not to increase the frequency of testing for vaccinated individuals, and this is certainly something to monitor. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see it moved up to weekly testing.

The memo obtained by Pelissero also lays out mask-wearing restrictions for unvaccinated players around the team facility, which largely mirror what was put in place last year. They must wear masks even during walkthroughs, and during warmups, and on the sidelines.

As was also the case last year, they also remain prohibited from engaging in many forms of activities outside of the team facility, restricting attendance at venues such as indoor bars, clubs, and restaurants, or indoor gatherings of more than 15 people.

These were the protocols agreed to last season between the NFL and the NFLPA, and by and large have been carried over unchanged, again in mutual agreement with the players’ union, which unvaccinated players must continue to adhere to.

There is one important note, however, and that concerns free agents. The testing cadence required before a player (or Tier 1 and 2 staff) has been reduced from five days to two days. This means that it is significantly easier this season for teams to bring in an unvaccinated player during a work week and realistically be able to get him on the practice field and play for the following game.

As of the time of this writing, the full COVID-19 protocols have not been made available, to my knowledge, but I’m looking forward to visiting it once I have access, and seeing what may have changed from last season. Inevitably, it will evolve over the course of the year, but it’s good to start with a benchmark.

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