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The NFL's COVID rules will cause major inconveniences for unvaccinated players

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USA TODAY Sports Media Group
USA TODAY Sports Media Group
 2021-06-16
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Last year, the NFL managed to pull off an entire season amid a global pandemic without a widely available and effective vaccine. And while there were some rough moments, the league made it through the Super Bowl thanks to strict COVID protocols.

Fast forward to this coming season, and there are widely available and effective vaccines in the United States. But despite the NFL’s push to have its employees vaccinated, the player vaccination rate is lagging behind the rest of Tier 1 staff.

But with the newly announced COVID protocols, unvaccinated NFL players will be forced to decide between a super inconvenient season or a back-to-normal life. The league isn’t requiring players to get vaccinated, but it is making it clear to those who choose to remain unvaccinated that this season will feel a lot like 2020 for them.

The rules, which were agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, outlined that unvaccinated players would still be required to get tested everyday. They would have to wear masks in the facility, face travel restrictions and generally remain isolated from teammates and staff.

Vaccinated players, though, would face almost no restrictions on their daily life and would no longer be subject to daily testing or mask wearing.

In a sport where you’re competing against multiple players for spots on a depth chart, these kinds of limitations could have on-field consequences for unvaccinated players as so much about the day-to-day NFL life would be impacted — from access to staff to ability to build chemistry with teammates.

Players who violate the rules will also face some harsh punishments, including up to a $50,000 fine on a first offense. Unvaccinated players also won’t be allowed to eat at restaurants, go to nightclubs or participate in marketing events.

We should see in the coming weeks if these new rules make an impact on the players. It could very well be enough to sway a large portion of the league.

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