The NFL’s 32 teams have done their best to educate players about the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine. The league isn’t requiring vaccines for players but is encouraging them by relaxing its COVID-19 protocols for players who are vaccinated and for teams with 85 percent of all players vaccinated.
That still isn’t incentive enough for some players, though.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports that more than half of the league’s players have received at least one dose of the vaccine for COVID-19.
Sixteen teams have more than 50 of 90 players on their rosters vaccinated, including three teams with 70 or more players vaccinated. Maske, though, reports the Colts, Jaguars, Cardinals and Chargers are lagging behind in their vaccination rates.
The league and NFLPA have not released vaccination rates.
The fact that most teams are struggling to get to 85 percent compliance could result in some unvaccinated players low on the depth chart — and thus unlikely to make the final roster — to lose their jobs before training camp. Teams close to the threshold could decide to take fewer than 90 players to camp, shedding unvaccinated players to reach the magic percentage and thus have relaxed protocols.
(Teams are not allowed to cut players based on vaccination status. But let’s be honest, if a team is deciding whether to keep player A or player B, and player A is vaccinated and player B isn’t, the vaccination status likely will serve as the deciding factor. Players on the bubble or below the bubble should get vaccinated to have any chance at all of making a roster.)
The NFL has all but required coaches and staff members to be vaccinated, mandating they do so to maintain Tier 1 protocol status that enables them to work in proximity to players. Media is expected to face a COVID-19 vaccination requirement to enter team facilities or NFL stadiums.
“Last season was certainly not normal,” Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University, told Maske. “You didn’t have any games canceled. But you had games postponed. You had players being held out of games. All of those disruptions would be greatly reduced if you could get a large number of players vaccinated. I am certain the NFL knows this and is doing what it can to drive up vaccination rates. If no one got vaccinated, they could do what they did last year and have a season. But that was a pain.”