NFL teams can’t force players to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but they can make life difficult for unvaccinated players. And they will.
The latest example comes from Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians, who told Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that they will fine any unvaccinated player $14,000 on the spot any time he is not wearing a mask where he is supposed to be, or is otherwise breaking any of the NFL’s protocols for unvaccinated players.
Arians also noted that unvaccinated players are tested every day and vaccinated players are tested only once every other week, and that will make life a lot less convenient for the unvaccinated.
“A vaccinated player will get tested 14 times this year,” Arians said. “An unvaccinated player will get tested 140.”
Arians also said he believes the Buccaneers’ vaccination rate will be more than 85 percent by final cutdowns — which could be viewed as a thinly veiled threat to the players on the roster bubble that they’ll be gone before the 53-man roster is set if they aren’t vaccinated.
So while it’s true that teams can’t force players to get vaccinated, teams can make life so difficult that it probably won’t be feasible to remain unvaccinated for anyone but the stars who are good enough not to get cut, and have enough guaranteed money in their contracts that they don’t care about $14,000 fines. That’s a pretty small minority of players in the NFL.
UPDATE 12:22 p.m. ET: Arians has confirmed he was referring to the NFL’s fines for COVID-19 protocol violations, not the team fining its players.