The NFL caused quite a stir last week after releasing its newest policies regarding COVID-19 and the 2021 season. With the pandemic raging on and kickoff quickly approaching, the league is sending a very clear message to its teams. To put it simply: get vaccinated or face major consequences.
What Are The NFL’s Newest Policies?
Just after noon on July 22nd, NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero took to Twitter to break this bombshell story. He outlined all the shocking details included in a memo sent from Commissioner Roger Goodell to each team’s front office.
Clubs were informed that the NFL plans to stick to its intended 18-week, 272-game schedule. It will not add a ‘19th week’ for games postponed due to COVID-19 cases.
In the event of a cancellation caused by unvaccinated players, the responsible team will have to forfeit, unless the game can be rescheduled during the regular 18-week season. The club will be credited with an automatic loss, hurting them in playoff seeding, draft purposes, and waiver priority.
In addition, outbreaks among unvaccinated players will have massive monetary implications. Cancelled games will result in missed paychecks for not only the infected team’s players, but also their opponents. The culpable club will also be subject to large financial losses and penalties, as well as potential sanctions from Goodell.
Vaccinated players will not have to quarantine if they come into close contact with an infected person. If a vaccinated individual tests positive for COVID-19, they’ll be allowed to return to normal activities following two negative tests 24-hours apart.
Conversely, unvaccinated players must isolate for five days if they’re determined to have been in contact with an infected individual. If they contract COVID-19, they must quarantine for the full ten day period.
What Is The Packers’ Vaccination Status?
In mid-June, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gave an update regarding Green Bay’s vaccination status.
Matt LaFleur reported the Packers’ Tier 1 & 2 staff – those who deal with players directly – were “almost 100%” vaccinated. However, the head coach admitted his players were “not quite there” yet.
The NFL’s medical director, Allen Sills, recently assured that the league’s overall rates are headed in the right direction.
As of July 23rd, 80% of NFL players had been fully-vaccinated or were in the process of becoming so. Sills noted that nine clubs had vaccinated at least 90% of their players, while five teams hadn’t yet reached 70%. The remaining teams’ numbers are thought to fall somewhere in between that range.
Sills didn’t offer specific details as to which teams fall in which categories, nor has the NFL released such information. Thus, Green Bay’s current vaccination status still remains a mystery.
Neither the NFL nor the Packers will require players to be vaccinated in order to participate in the coming season.
The More Vaccinated Players, The Better
The Packers’ front office is doing everything they can to persuade their players to get their shots. Efforts include providing various educational materials, speakers, and opportunities to teach about the vaccine’s safety, efficacy, and benefits.
Getting as many players as possible vaccinated before the season starts would be extremely advantageous. Doing so would lessen the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak occurring in the Green Bay locker room. In turn, this reduces the chance that the Packers would fall victim to the NFL’s strict disciplinary actions outlined earlier.
Even further, high vaccination rates will save the franchise an astronomical amount of money going forward. According to Paul Baniel, Vice President of Finance and Administration, it cost in the “middle seven figures” for the Packers to play through the pandemic last year.
Their biggest expense was daily COVID-19 tests for each player, coach, and staff member. Mark Murphy, Green Bay’s President and CEO, said in an interview those tests cost a staggering $120 apiece.
Now, vaccinated players will only be required to be tested every two weeks, while unvaccinated players must continue daily testing.
Murphy noted that unvaccinated Packers won’t be allowed to travel during the team’s bye-week. Additionally, if unvaccinated players contract COVID-19, they will miss out on game-day roster bonuses.
The CEO continues to stress the importance of everyone getting their shots.
“I think Matt [LaFleur] has done an excellent job of really working with our players, really talking about how safe and effective the vaccine is. I think we, as well as every team across the league, we’re doing everything we can to encourage people to get vaccinated — not just our players, but our fans. We’re all in this together. It’s a community effort and the more we all get vaccinated, the safer we all are.”
These new NFL policies represent the league’s greatest push to incentivize vaccinations. They’ve also created a great deal of controversy. Players, coaches, and fans are divided, with some in strong support and others in vehement opposition.
Some big names, like the Bills’ Cole Beasley and the Cardinals’ Deandre Hopkins, have expressed their outrage with the rules on social media. Additionally, assistant coaches for the Vikings and Patriots have been fired for refusing to get vaccinated. We’ve yet to see such headlines from any displeased Packers players or coaches.
Despite the dangerous Delta variant spreading and coronavirus cases rising in all 50 states, the 2021 season will proceed as normal. NFL stadiums, including Lambeau Field, will be back to full capacity in just a few weeks.
It remains to be seen how COVID-19 will impact the Packers this year. But if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that with these new policies in place, there will be no shortage of COVID-related drama!
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