NFL Sends Warning to Teams That Suffer COVID-19 Outbreaks Among Unvaccinated Players

The NFL sent a warning to all 32 teams if a COVID-19 outbreak happens this upcoming season. According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the league sent a memo to its clubs stating that if a game can't be rescheduled during the 18-week regular season schedule due to an outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will forfeit, and its game will count as a loss. Additionally, players on both teams will not be paid for the lost game, and the team responsible for the canceled game could face discipline for commissioner Roger Goodell.

"If a game is canceled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection," the memo states, per NFL.com. "We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."

According to Judy Battista of the NFL Network, more than 78% of players in the NFL have received one shot of the vaccine. Also, 14 teams have at least 85% of players vaccinated. The memo also talks about vaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19. If that happens, a player who is asymptomatic can return to the team after two negative tests 24 hours apart. For a player who tests positive and is not vaccinated, 10-day isolation is required.

"These operating principles are designed to allow us to play a full season in a safe and responsible way," Goodell wrote, "and address possible competitive or financial issues fairly. While there is no question that health conditions have improved from last year, we cannot be complacent or simply assume that we will be able to play without interruption - either due to Covid outbreaks among our clubs or outbreaks that occur within the larger community. These principles are intended to help inform decisions, recognizing that, as in 2020, we will need to remain flexible and adapt to possibly changing conditions."

The teams will start reporting to training camp next week. The first preseason game will be the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday, Aug. 5 as the Dallas Cowboys will face the Pittsburgh Steelers. The rest of the teams will start their preseason the following week, and the regular season will start on Sept. 9.