The NFL is making it clear that they are taking protocols very seriously this year—and that protocols will be far more stringent for players who are not vaccinated than it will be for those who are. It was reported on Saturday—after a bit of confusion and disinformation—that the league is mandating a fine for players for every instance of a breach in protocol this season, even as simple as not wearing a mask, at a rate of $14,650 per instance.
This information was first disseminated by Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who said that players would be fined “$14,000 on the spot every time he isn’t wearing a mask or is breaking a protocol”, as Jenna Lane writes for ESPN. The way it was initially reported, it indicated that this was a team-level discipline (others even portrayed it as a fine for not being vaccinated), but in reality, it is a fine issued by the league.
As regular readers here are aware, the league’s COVID-19 protocols have become a source of friction between those on opposite sides of the divide on the issue of vaccinations. While players are free to choose not to get vaccinated, and a team is not permitted to release a player solely over vaccination status, it is abundantly clear that they are highly motivated to discourage players from going without the vaccine.
According to recent reports, upwards of around 80 percent of the players on 90-man rosters right now have at least begun the vaccination process, which can take around six weeks to complete, from the administration of the first dose of a two-dose vaccine to the end of the two-week gestation period following the second dose.
While teams may not, on the surface, release a player solely due to vaccination status, it will certainly discourage teams from bringing players in off the street if they are not vaccinated. Players who are not vaccinated will have to go through the same protocols as last year, which includes a five-day testing period before they can even step into the building.
That puts vaccinated free agents at a major advantage in-season, when teams are looking for help. If you can bring one guy in right away, and the other you can’t get into the building until Friday or Saturday, which one do you think is more likely to get the visit?
That’s just one of the numerous ‘advantages’ that vaccinated players will have over unvaccinated players, though for the most part, it’s not necessarily representative to describe them as advantages. The protocols unvaccinated players undergo are simply based upon the medical guidelines for those who do not have an immunity against COVID-19, meaning they’re not in place simply to make life more difficult for them and make them want to get the vaccine, but to try to keep everybody safe.