It’s too late for the NFL to have a vaccine mandate for players. According to the president of the NFL Players Association, the league never asked for one.
“It’s the NFL’s choice on the mandate,” NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter told ESPN Cleveland’s The Really Big Show with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer. “They didn’t enforce one. There was never really any talk about having a mandate. They moved forward with mandating it for their staff and employees and they never mandated it for the players. Every player had a choice on what they wanted to do. Whether they wanted to have last year’s protocols being unvaccinated or move to more lax protocols with the vaccine.”
The question of whether the NFL asked for a mandate could be a matter of semantics. At some point, it became clear to the NFL that the union would not agree to one. So why ask?
Still, the union believes that players should be vaccinated.
“We believe the vaccine is safe and effective,” Tretter said. “It’s now fully FDA approved, at least the Pfizer [vaccine] and that should continue to trend in the right direction.”
If the union believes the vaccine is safe and effective, there’s still time to agree to a mandate, in theory. In practice, that won’t be happening.
“I think that time has already passed,” Tretter said. “The NFL is not mandating the vaccine for players so I don’t think there’s any going back on that at this point. I think we move forward how that is. I think we’re sitting above 90 percent with fully vaccinated or trending to fully vaccinated waiting on the seconnd shot or full immunity. That’s where we’re at now. We know the protocols we used last year worked, got us through a season. So we’ll continue to refine those protocols, continue to enforce those protocols. That’s our goal again, to get through a season, avoid transmission within the building that’s what caused us problems last year. As long as we do that, we find a way to finish the season, play all the games and crown a Super Bowl Champion.”
There’s no doubt that the NFL will once again finish the season, and there’s little doubt that all games will be played. The question, given the number of unvaccinated players, becomes whether and when players will suddenly become unavailable to play based on the requirement of daily testing and the continuous possibility of close contact with an infected person.