Players who miss games due to a COVID-19 diagnosis in 2021 will indeed get paid, no questions asked. If those players are vaccinated.
If a player isn’t vaccinated, a COVID-19 diagnosis could cause the player to lose pay for all games missed because of it.
Per a letter agreement dated Tuesday, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed that a team “may not challenge whether or not a player’s COVID-19 infection is football-related if . . . the player was fully vaccinated at the time he contracted the virus; and the player received an initial negative test for COVID-19 upon timely reporting to preseason training camp during the 2021 League Year, and he did not have a subsequent unexcused absence from preseason training camp.”
Even if the vaccinated player tests positive after the regular-season bye week, the team may not challenge whether the positive test resulted from a football-related activity (i.e., catching COVID-19 while out of town).
By implication, teams can challenge whether a COVID-19 infection is football related for players who haven’t been vaccinated. Which, in theory, sets the stage for players who refuse to get vaccinated to potentially lose game checks if they can’t play.
Thus, the league and the union essentially have codified what we suggested two weeks ago. Players who don’t get vaccinated and who get COVID away from the facility should not be paid for missing games. While it could prompt a fight that would be resolved in arbitration (and, depending on the IR/NFI rules for 2021, could require the team to shelve the player for most if not all of the rest of the season), it’s another clear incentive for players who haven’t been vaccinated to get vaccinated.