The NFL on Thursday sent a memo to teams detailing how it plans to handle possible COVID-19 outbreaks during the 2021 season.
While the league isn’t mandating that all its players be vaccinated, the potential ramifications for an outbreak among unvaccinated players are massive.
Most notably, per the memo, the NFL does not anticipate adding a “19th week” to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week regular season. And if a game cannot be rescheduled — and is cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players on one of the competing teams — the team with the outbreak will forfeit said game.
The forfeiting team will be deemed to have played 16 regular-season games — as opposed to 17 — for the purposes of the NFL draft, waiver priority, etc. That team also will be credited with a loss, for the purposes of playoff seeding, while the other team will be credited with a win.
Here’s more from the memo, per NFL.com:
If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection. We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.
Obviously, that’s a hard stance taken by the NFL. And it’s even firmer when you consider the financial aspect of the 2021 rules.
According to the memo, if a game is rescheduled or cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players on one of the competing teams, the team with the outbreak will bear a significant monetary burden. The real attention-grabber, however, is how the league intends to handle players’ game checks in such instances.
Take a look:
If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary.
If a game is cancelled because of a Covid outbreak among unvaccinated players/staff, in addition to the financial penalties identified above, the Commissioner retains the authority to impose additional sanctions, particularly if the Covid outbreak is reasonably determined to be the result of a failure by club personnel to follow applicable protocols.
Expect plenty of debate regarding the NFL’s new rules, which definitely incentivize players being vaccinated while threatening harsh penalties for those teams whose unvaccinated players disrupt the 2021 schedule.