The NFL hopes to get as many teams as possible — and preferably all teams — to a vaccination rate of 85 percent or greater. The fact that roughly a third of the league has hit that mark at a time when the rosters have up to 90 men could be good news in that regard.
As the rosters shrink, the vaccination rates could improve. Even though teams technically can’t release players based on the fact that they’re not vaccinated, it surely will become a factor in close questions of relative ability between two or more players when it’s time to figure out who stays and who goes.
Trim the unvaccinated guys, and the vaccination rate necessarily goes up.
But here’s where it can get interesting, and potentially problematic for the teams. If bottom-of-the-roster players and young players already have gotten vaccinated because they realize that their September employment prospects hinge on it, it’s possible that the unvaccinated players come largely from the ranks of players whose roster status is secure. If that’s the case, the vaccination rates will fall as the released players come from the cluster of players who have gotten vaccinated in part because they want to get jobs.
Given that the league and union are discussing a way to make vaccinated players readily identifiable during practices and games, it will become easy to make a list of the vaccinated and unvaccinated players on each team, no later than the first preseason game. At that point, it will become easier to predict whether the 53-man vaccination rate will be higher or lower than whatever it is once camp opens.