The NFL will fine unvaccinated players $14,650 for violations of its COVID-19 protocols during the 2021 season.
According to ESPN's Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said it was "league policy," while NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy confirmed as much.
The topic first became public when Arians told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that he plans to fine unvaccinated players $14,000 for breaking a COVID-19 protocol such as not properly wearing one's mask.
"A vaccinated player will get tested 14 times this year," Arians explained. "An unvaccinated player will get tested 140."
Whether teams are vaccinated will be a major storyline this season.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported the league informed teams that any clubs that experience an outbreak that leads to a canceled game will be forced to forfeit that contest if the game can't be rescheduled within the 18-week season. What's more, if the outbreak occurs among unvaccinated individuals, then the team responsible will incur the financial burden.
While players are not required to receive the vaccine like Tier 1 staff members (excluding medical and religious grounds), the reality that outbreaks could lead to missed game checks puts plenty of pressure on them as the league attempts to complete the season in a safe, healthy manner.
There are also other competitive advantages, as asymptomatic and vaccinated players can return to play following two negative tests that are spaced 24 hours apart. Any unvaccinated players must remain in isolation for at least 10 days in such a scenario and could miss games.
As for the defending champion Buccaneers, Stroud noted just three players missed a game because of COVID-19 during the 2020 season.
"I think (it was) the commitment for the guys making the sacrifices and the families making the sacrifices to beat COVID. I mean, it’s hard for 25-year-old guys to go to work and go home, and they did it. The commitment they made to each other. I think it was the big bond for all those guys coming back in free agency, too."
The coach is taking measures to make sure the team has the same type of fortune in 2021.