NFL, NFLPA Agree to COVID-19 Protocols for 2021 Season; Includes Weekly Testing

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 30, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 21: The NFL Logo on display during a preseason game between the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings  on August 21, 2021 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN.(Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL and its players' association agreed to updated COVID-19 protocols with the regular season approaching.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network shared the details, which are summarized below:

  • Fully vaccinated players and staff members will be tested weekly instead of every two weeks. They can also opt for a second weekly test, and those who are living with vulnerable people can be tested daily.
  • Fully vaccinated staff members and coaches who interact with players are required to wear masks while indoors.
  • Players who are not vaccinated must wear masks indoors but do not have to outdoors.
  • Unvaccinated players must test every day and cannot go inside team facilities or interact with other players until they receive their results.
  • Fully vaccinated players are not considered high-risk close contacts even if they are tested for five days. Unvaccinated players are and could miss game action even without a positive test

The final one regarding high-risk close contact protocol is the same as it was before and underscores how much of a competitive disadvantage it is to have unvaccinated players on the roster.

After all, roster spaces are limited and those who have not protected themselves and others by getting the vaccine run the risk of being declared out for games with limited time for teams to find adequate replacements.

The problems will be even more significant at marquee positions such as quarterback.

The reality that unvaccinated players represent competitive disadvantages was perhaps never clearer than in July when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo saying teams may have to forfeit games if they cannot play because of a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players.

These updates come after league deputy general counsel Larry Ferazani told reporters on a conference call that the NFL proposed a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for players. However, the players' association opposed such a mandate and instead pushed for daily testing for all players, regardless of their vaccination status.

The players' association also sent a letter to players on Monday revealing it will continue pushing for more frequent testing, per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk:

"While the League's proposal results in increased testing frequency for vaccinated individuals, it does not sufficiently solve for the real risk of virus transmission going undetected inside a Club facility. However, because testing once a week is better than once every 14 days, we will not oppose the changes outlined above. Based on the advice of our medical experts and the emerging science concerning the spread of the Delta variant, we will continue to negotiate for a testing cadence that maximizes protections for players and ensures that games will be played this season."

At the time Ferazani held his conference call, Dr. Allen Sills revealed that approximately 93 percent of the league's players were vaccinated and the incidence rate of the virus was seven times higher among those who were not vaccinated.

The season is scheduled to begin Sept. 9 with a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys.