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NFL defers issue of identifying vaccinated players at practice and games to teams

As training camps open and players return to the practice field, a question lingers regarding those who have and haven’t been vaccinated. How, if in any way, will they be distinguished?

Not long ago, the NFL and NFL Players Association were discussing a system for allowing visual identification of vaccinated players at practices and games. (Currently, wristbands or credentials for the vaccinated are required when inside the team facility.) Now, as more and more players have gotten vaccinated, that issue apparently has been nudged to the back burner, at least by the league.

The NFL’s official position is that it’s an issue that will be handled by the clubs. Unofficially, the league is focused on getting as many players vaccinated as possible (and, based on the plain language of Thursday’s memo, encouraging teams to shed players who aren’t vaccinated).

To the extent it’s a team issue, it’s not one on which some teams are ready to comment. PFT has contacted more than a handful of team PR representatives, most of whom answered the question regarding the on-field process for distinguishing vaccinated from unvaccinated players with some version of, “I don’t know.”

In Jacksonville, the current plan is that the unvaccinated players will be identified in the facility and on the practice field with a wristband. The players may not appreciate the COVID equivalent of a scarlet letter, and that could prompt some of them to lash out on social media.

As mentioned on Saturday, the NFLPA hopes to minimize such outbursts, in order to prevent players from influencing their followers to not get vaccinated.

Look for the league and most teams to continue to downplay this question, given that it could make an already delicate issue even more uncomfortable. For now, the focus continues to be getting to the point at which, come Week One, everyone will be vaccinated and the issue of wristbands for those who have or haven’t gotten the shot(s) will become moot.