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NFL puts forfeits in play for outbreaks among non-vaccinated players/staff

Mike Florio unpacks whether Cole Beasley has another goal in mind while being against the COVID vaccine and the NFL protocols, and the issues it might be causing him and the Buffalo Bills.

The NFL continues to create more and more incentives for players and staff to get vaccinated.

In a memo distributed today by the league office, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the NFL has informed all teams that any regular-season cancellations arising in the 2021 season due to a COVID spike from a given team’s “non-vaccinated players/staff,” the club with the outbreak will forfeit the game and will be deemed to have played 16 games for purposes of draft order and waiver priority. For playoff seeding, the forfeit counts as a loss -- and the opposing team will be credited with a win.

The league also explains that the regular season won’t be extended by a week to accommodate games that need to be postponed, and that can’t otherwise fit into the current 18-week campaign.

This rule on forfeits applies only to cancellations due to an outbreak among non-vaccinated players and/or staff. In the same memo, the league explains that it, “if a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.” In other words, there won’t be a forfeit in a game is scrapped due to vaccinated players testing positive.

No games were canceled last year, although several were postponed. It’s unlikely (at this point) that any games will be canceled this year. Regardless, the bright line between cancellations due to vaccinated players/staff and non-vaccinated players/staff represents the latest device aimed at getting all players and staff to choose to get vaccinated.

If the competitive realities of getting vaccinated weren’t already clear, they should be obvious now. If non-vaccinated players can’t play and the team can’t play because of it, the team loses the game.

Meanwhile, this decision creates an even greater incentive for teams to choose vaccinated players over non-vaccinated players when trimming the roster from 90 to 53. Although vaccine status technically should not be an issue in deciding whether a player should have a final roster spot, today’s memo creates a plain incentive to keep as many vaccinated players as possible.