Players who aren’t vaccinated must adhere to the same COVID protocols that applied in 2020. And the NFL isn’t messing around when it comes to imposing fines when lapses occur.
The league, we’re told, already has fined a number of unvaccinated players for not wearing a mask. Another one has been fined this morning. Bills receiver Isaiah McKenzie shared on social media the letter he received today, requiring him to pay $14,650 for recent infractions.
The league moved quickly; the behavior triggering the fine happened on Wednesday.
“On August 25, 2021, at approximately 2:15 p.m. while walking through the indoor fieldhouse and into the training room, you failed to wear a mask,” the letter from the league office posted by McKenzie explains. “Then at approximately 4:35 p.m. on August 25, for several minutes, you again failed to wear a mask in the meeting area of the weight room while gathered near other players after the offensive meeting.”
The letter posted by McKenzie confirms he’s one of various Bills who aren’t vaccinated. That confirmation isn’t necessary; only players who aren’t vaccinated are subject to fines for not wearing a mask.
McKenzie’s tweet mocks the outcome, asking his followers to “pray for me” with a smiling emoji after it. Someone definitely should be praying for him, because he’s clearly at risk of being cut next week.
McKenzie arguably lands at No. 6 on the receiver depth chart, behind Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, and Jake Kumerow. If other players lower than McKenzie are vaccinated, the Bills will be very tempted to keep one of them instead when the roster drops from 80 to 53 in five days.
McKenzie could be saved by his value as a return specialist; he’s currently the No. 1 option for kickoffs and punts. (Last year, he returned two kickoffs for 32 total yards and one punt, which resulted in an 84-yard touchdown.)
McKenzie received a $137,500 signing bonus on the one-year deal he signed to stay with Buffalo. A portion of his $990,000 salary is guaranteed. That may not be enough to guarantee a roster spot, however. Between not being vaccinated and not complying with the rules, McKenzie is tempting fate as the Bills undoubtedly look to increase their vaccination rate by shedding some of the players who persist in their refusal to do what they should have done weeks ago.