Per the NFL’s and NFLPA’s updated COVID protocols for the 2021 season, players who choose not to get vaccinated are in for a comparatively rough time in just about every way in comparison to those players who are vaccinated.
The difference is pretty stark. Players who are not fully vaccinated have to be tested for COVID every day. They must wear masks at all times at team facilities and during team travel. They must remain physically distant from others in team facilities. They must quarantine after any high-risk exposure to COVID. They will undergo travel restrictions. They must be limited regarding personnel in the weight room. They can’t eat with their teammates in the cafeteria. There are no social media/marketing/sponsorship activities permitted. They may not use the team sauna or steam room. They can’t leave team hotels to eat in restaurants, and they can’t interact with anyone outside of the team’s traveling party during team travel.
Vaccinated players have no such restrictions. Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network has the specifics.
The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols for 2021 training camp and preseason, per source.
How different will life by for vaccinated and unvaccinated players? From the memo that just went to clubs: pic.twitter.com/8yMPW0JBWZ
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) June 16, 2021
Players are not required to be vaccinated as coaches and staff are, but the league is making it clear that if you choose not to get vaccinated, you are going to operate at a disadvantage in just about every way. That may not make a difference for players who are virtually guaranteed roster spots (like Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold, who has been on the fence about it), but if you’re an undrafted bubble guy who’s just trying to stick on a roster, this might not work out so well for you. There’s also the matter of science proving that vaccinations are the best way to manage COVID, but that is an individual choice. Where it’s going to get sticky for those types of players is in the differences in the day-to-day.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said on Wednesday that he asked NFL Chief Medical Officer Allen Stills to speak with his team.
“He talked about the vaccine, how safe it is and how it became tested,” Zimmer said. “He talked to them about what the protocols will be like next fall, which we should be hearing in the next couple of days. He talked to them about why they should, even if they have had COVID, still get vaccinated because your antibodies are way off the charts. You’re going to be safer if it comes back again. One of the players asked about if they would need to get a booster shot at some point. There’s a lot of those things and we are just trying to educate those guys.”
And while Zimmer recognized the freedom of choice, he also talked about how different things will be for those players who choose not to be vaccinated.
“They have to make their own decisions. The unvaccinated players are going to have a hard time during the season. They are going to be wearing masks, they’re going to have to social distance, they’ll have daily testing. They won’t go home for bye week and have to come back here and test every day. When we go on the road, they won’t be able to go out to dinner with anybody. They’ll have to travel on busses differently and travel on planes differently, so a lot of meetings will be virtual like we have here. It’s not only the safety part of being vaccinated, but as far as being a part of a football team.
“For me, for instance, I don’t have to wear a mask. We had a staff meeting the other day and everybody is in the same room. We can sit there and talk as opposed to doing this like we’re doing here. I know you guys know, I don’t like doing all of the media stuff, but I would much rather be sitting in a room talking to you then up at this camera and looking down at you.”
So, again… freedom of choice? Absolutely. Freedom from consequences? Absolutely not, which is exactly how it should be, whether you believe in vaccinations or not.