The NFL informed its clubs about updated Coronavirus protocols last week, and the announcement kicked off a tsunami of reactions. Not all of them were positive. Among those to voice his displeasure was New England Patriots linebacker Matthew Judon.
Judon took to social media to criticize the players union for agreeing to one particular stipulation: under the league’s guidelines jointly agreed to by the NFL and the NFLPA, any time a game gets canceled due to a Covid-19 outbreak neither team’s players will be paid a salary for that particular week.
Now, one of Judon’s teammates has also spoken out about the issue. Talking to Pro Football Focus’ Doug Kyed, long snapper Joe Cardona also was critical of potential salary forfeitures.
“The NFL has taken a firm stance that will have massive implications to individual players,” Cardona said. “Ensuring every single player in the league is afforded the opportunity to earn every paycheck for which they are eligible is extremely important. As athletes, our time horizon for earning income is already volatile enough with factors we can control, let alone this new policy.”
While Cardona, Judon and others voiced their displeasure, the union took to defending itself against their members’ criticism. The NFLPA released a statement last week saying that the rules were already in place in 2020 as well even though they never had to be enforced with no games canceled because of a Covid-19 outbreak.
Cardona, meanwhile, mentioned that motivation to get vaccinated should not only be of a financial nature.
“Any member of an NFL locker room has a duty to keep teammates, coaches, support staff, and fans safe and healthy,” he said. “That responsibility should be an impactful incentive all on its own to encourage everyone to get vaccinated, irregardless of financial consequences.”
Questions about salaries were not the only ones raised in the aftermath of the NFL’s memo, however. One area of scrutiny was the league’s continued efforts to encourage players to get vaccinated.
Those unvaccinated for one reason or another will have fewer freedoms compared to their vaccinated counterparts; they will have to undergo daily testing, need to wear face coverings inside the building, face travel restrictions, and potentially have to go into isolation as close contacts. Likewise, outbreaks among unvaccinated players could lead to game forfeitures and hefty fines for organizations.
As of Friday, nine teams had over 90 percent of their players in the vaccination process, according to the NFL’s chief medical officer, Dr. Allen Sills. The league-wide vaccination rate is apparently over 80 percent.
The Patriots have not disclosed their vaccination numbers, but the belief is that they are near or maybe already across the 85-percent threshold set by the league.