As the 2021 NFL season quickly approaches, the league and the NFLPA have agreed to new COVID-19 protocols for players and staff -- ones that heavily favor those who are fully vaccinated.
In a memo obtained by NFL Network's Tom Peliserro, the two sides agreed to rules and restrictions that feature a vast disparity in what players can and cannot do based on vaccination status. Everything from testing, travel, access to facilities and life outside the field varies.
For players who have received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, protocols are a lot more relaxed than during the 2020 season. Everyday testing turns to once every two weeks and players who are exposed to COVID-19 but are fully vaccinated will not go through the five-day quarantine that hindered the availability of numerous players last season.
In addition, players and staff members have easier access to all team facilities, travel and can interact with friends and family when not with the team.
As for those who are not vaccinated, the protocols are similar to that of 2020. There are restrictions at the facility, testing every day, quarantine with exposure and major fines for venturing out to a restaurant or club.
Pelisserro also shared that during travel for games, only vaccinated members of the organization will be allowed to fly on the team charter. In terms of bringing in players for tryouts, the five-day testing period will remain in effect for those that are not fully vaccinated.
Besides vaccination easing restrictions for players, it also is a competitive advantage for the teams. Having a high number of vaccinated individuals lessens the chance of losing a player to a positive test or exposure while allowing the team to be in close contact consistently.
These updated protocols come at a time when NFL franchises are working to up the number of vaccinated players and staff members. For the Washington Football Team, head coach Ron Rivera noted during mandatory minicamp that all Tier 1 staff members are vaccinated in addition to 50% of the players.
Rivera has brought in vaccine experts to answer questions anyone may have and increase confidence for those who are still debating whether or not to get it. That includes star pass-rusher Montez Sweat, who stated that he doesn't see himself getting the vaccine at this time.