With the NFL waving the white flag (while climbing the green mountain) via the dramatic changes to testing and protocols aimed at taking a see-no-COVID, head-no-COVID, speak-no-COVID approach to the balance of the season in order to get all games played, the league and the union have created a way out for those players who aren’t comfortable with dramatically reduced testing and dramatically relaxed protections, if they qualify.
By Monday at 2:00 p.m. ET, any higher-risk player can opt out for the balance of the season.
From the revised protocols “A Higher Risk Player is defined as a player with a previously confirmed diagnosis of one or more of the following CDC-defined risk factors: (1) cancer; (2) chronic kidney disease; (3) COPD; (4) immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant; (5) serious heart condition such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; (6) sickle cell disease; (7) Type 2 diabetes mellitus; (8) cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain); (9) cystic fibrosis; (10) immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines; (11) neurologic conditions, such as dementia; (12) liver disease; (13) pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues); or (14) previously hospitalized for COVID or myocarditis objectively measured and causally linked to a prior COVID-19 infection. In addition, if a player has a high-risk co-habitant that has a confirmed diagnosis listed above, such a player may request to opt out, and the request will be evaluated by Dr. [Allen] Sills.”
Anyone who opts out will receive no pay for the balance of the season.
Even with no stipend or other compensation, opting out may be better than just walking away. Some players would owe bonus money to their teams. Others would endure complications with the balance of their contracts, potentially.
For any player who isn’t comfortable with today’s changes (and, as we hear it, plenty are) and who doesn’t meet the “higher-risk” definition, talk to the union or your agent to determine the pros and cons of simply retiring or quitting for the rest of the year. It’s important to know the full consequences of quitting before doing it. For some who are concerned about the new procedures, walking away may be a very viable option.