by Rob Maddy and Barry Wilner | The Associated Press
NFL teams that experience a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players may skip regular-season games, with players from both teams not being paid.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell warned 32 teams in a memo obtained by the Associated Press on Thursday that no games would be rescheduled under such circumstances. Instead, there may be forfeiture.
“As we learned last year, if we maintain a firm commitment to following our health and safety protocols and making the necessary adjustments in response to changing circumstances, we can play a full season,” Goodell said.
He added that the league does not anticipate adding a 19th week to accommodate games that need to be moved due to coronavirus issues.
“If a game cannot be rescheduled and is canceled due to a COVID outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the competing teams, the team with the outbreak shall be forfeited and deemed to have Have played 16 games for draft purposes, waiver priority, etc,” Goodell said.
For the purposes of playoff seeding, a loss to the forfeiting team and a win to the other team will be counted.
The memo states that if a “spike in vaccinated individuals” causes an outbreak of the virus, we will strive to reduce both the competitive and economic burden on the participating teams.
The NFL has not mandated vaccination. The league and the NFL Players Association, however, are strongly urging team staff and players to do the same.
Last year, in the height of the pandemic, the NFL completed its season, the playoffs and the Super Bowl on time. But the 18th week had a contingency plan to play the makeup game when needed. Postponed several times but no cancellations.
For 2021, the regular season has been extended to 17 games.
The league says more than half of its teams currently have COVID-19 vaccination rates over 80% of their players, and more than 75% of players are in the process of being vaccinated. All training camps will open by the end of next week.
Almost all clubs have 100% immunized their Tier 1 and 2 staff – essentially players, coaches and other club members who have direct contact with players. In line with guidance given last April, teams have appropriate protocols in place for employees who have not been vaccinated.
In response to Goodell’s memo, the players’ union reminded its players that “the same basic rules were applied last year.”
“The only difference this year is the NFL’s decision to impose additional penalties on clubs that are responsible for the outbreak and the availability of proven vaccines,” an NFLPA memo said Thursday.
“The protocols we jointly agreed to help us get through a full season last year without missing game checks and are in effect when followed.”
The cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot, who was stricken with the coronavirus last year, called the vaccine “a touchy subject,” though he said he had been vaccinated.
“You can’t really tell someone what to do with their body,” Elliott said at Cowboys training camp. “I grew up in a family where we didn’t get vaccines, so it’s hard to tell someone that their parents told them not to have vaccines for the rest of their lives. So I mean That I don’t know, it’s everyone’s body, you can’t tell them what to do.”
As for the possible forfeiture, he said:
“A check is only monetary, you can’t put a price on someone’s health or do what they think will make them feel good or not make them feel good. Like I said, you’re walking a hard line.”
Other key points in the league’s memorandum:
– If the vaccinated person tests positive and is not symptomatic, he/she will be isolated and contact tracing will be done immediately. The positive person will be allowed to return to duty after two negative tests in an interval of at least 24 hours, and thereafter every two weeks or as directed by the medical staff. Persons vaccinated as a result of close contact with an infected person shall not be subjected to quarantine.
If a non-vaccinated person tests positive, the 2020 protocols will remain in effect. The person will be kept in isolation for a period of 10 days and then allowed to return to duty if there is no symptom. If there is close contact with an infected person, unrelated persons will continue to be subject to a five-day quarantine period.
– People who have had a previous COVID-19 infection will be fully vaccinated 14 days after taking at least one dose of an approved vaccine.