With more than half of the NFL’s currently rostered players already vaccinated against the Coronavirus, the league and its players union have agreed to update Covid-19 guidelines for training camp and preseason. As had to be expected, these rules clearly differentiate between those who have gotten the vaccine and those who have not.
As the following protocols for fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated players, coaches and team personnel show, life this summer will be a lot easier for the first of those two groups (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero):
The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols for 2021 training camp and preseason, per source.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 16, 2021
How different will life by for vaccinated and unvaccinated players? From the memo that just went to clubs: pic.twitter.com/8yMPW0JBWZ
Let’s go through some key points mentioned in this table to see how they will affect life in the NFL this summer.
Testing: Players and coaches to receive all of the necessary Covid-19 shot to get fully vaccinated status will only have to be tested once every two weeks. Those who are not yet fully vaccinated, on the other hand, will continue to be be tested daily. Furthermore, free agents and tryout players will have to undergo five-day testing unless vaccinated.
Face coverings: Those who have been fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear protective face coverings on the sidelines, on the practice fields, or elsewhere in the facility. They also don’t need to wear masks during team travel.
Close contacts: Fully vaccinated personnel to get exposed to individuals testing positive for Covid-19 will no longer be labeled as high-risk close contact. They will therefore no longer be subject to the mandatory isolation under the rules in place during the 2020 season.
Staff: As early as training camp, coaches and other staff members not yet fully vaccinated will not be eligible for Tier 1 or Tier 2 status. Unless they have religious or medical exemptions, they will therefore not be allowed to conduct in-person work with players or be in the weight room alongside them.
Travel restrictions: Only fully vaccinated players and staff are allowed to board a team’s charter flight. Those who have religious or medical exemptions are allowed to travel separately, but are required to wear masks, and undergo a strict, daily testing regimen while also being banned from meetings or from leaving the team hotel for non-business reasons.
Disciplinary measures: Players who are not yet fully vaccinated are not allowed to attend social gatherings such as house parties, concerts, nightclubs. In case of violations, both the NFL and its clubs are allowed to hand down fines of up to $50,000 for a first offense.
As these rules show, the NFL is actively encouraging its personnel to get vaccinated. While it cannot force team employees to do so, the rules have created a playing field that is far from level: those who have been fully vaccinated enjoy some advantages others simply do not have, possibly encouraging the latter group to re-think its status.
As Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported earlier this week, half the teams in the NFL have seen at least 50 of their players get vaccinated. Three already have more than 70 vaccinated players on their rosters.
Not all teams have had the same level of success, however. The Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers have been listed among teams “not doing as well with their player-vaccination rates.”
“I feel like our players are informed and have the opportunity to be informed. I’m pretty comfortable with what the organization, Mr. Kraft and our training/medical staff, what we’ve done for everybody here,” he said.
“We’ll always keep everyone informed and make decisions that are best for individuals and for the football team. Whether that would be a specific situation or any others that would be similar to it, that’s how we’ve always done it. I can’t imagine that would ever change. I feel like we’re on top of it, we’re in front of it and we’ll be compliant with whatever rules or guidelines we’re given by the league and, to some degree, the state.”
Even though the Patriots have not made any statements about vaccination efforts within their ranks, there have been some encouraging developments. Not only did they produce a PSA encouraging people to get vaccinated featuring team leaders Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater, their coaches were also spotted not wearing any face coverings during mandatory minicamp — a possible reflection of vaccination progress.