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NFL releases COVID protocols memo, with major differences for vaccinated and unvaccinated players

NFL: DEC 20 Seahawks at Washington Football Team Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to COVID protocols for the upcoming 2021 season. The NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero released a Twitter thread including most of the COVID protocols for next season that starts with this tweet below.

The memo includes some rather unchanged protocols from 2020 for unvaccinated players, including daily testing, masks, travel restrictions, and restrictions on close contact with other team members and staff. The two most notable protocols for unvaccinated players in this Tweet aside from what I just mentioned are that they are not allowed to eat and mingle in the cafeteria with other players, and they are basically required to travel in a 2020 season style bubble that prohibits them from interacting with anyone outside of the team’s traveling party.

Vaccinated players have virtually no restrictions as long as everyone that they are around is vaccinated. For example, the weight rooms are allowed to be used at full capacity but only if everyone in the room is vaccinated, and unlike unvaccinated players, they may leave the hotel at road games to go to restaurants and mingle with family and friends, as long as the family and friends are vaccinated.

Some other major highlights from the memo include:

  • Fully vaccinated players and coaches exposed to a COVID-positive individual won’t be labeled a high-risk close contact and subject to the mandatory five-day quarantine like in 2020, but unvaccinated players and coaches will be subject to it.
  • Coaches who are not fully vaccinated and don’t have a religious or medical exemption won’t be allowed to work in person with players starting in training camp, and are subject to mask and social distancing rules during games.
  • Something that will surely cause many unvaccinated free agents to get vaccinated is a five-day testing period for tryout players, free agents, etc. who aren’t fully vaccinated, meaning they won't be able to join the team until they pass through multiple negative tests.

Pelissero included a direct quote from the memo about fans being able to attend training camp, saying, “Fans will be permitted to attend Training Camp, provided that they are more than 20 feet away from Tier 1 staff, including players, at all times, and adhere to physical distancing requirements. Fans will not be permitted to interact with players at any time.”

Media will also be back in the stadiums as vaccinated media members will be permitted to conduct in-person interviews, be in the press box, on the sideline, in the locker room, etc. However, unvaccinated media members will not be allowed to do any of the things I just mentioned, including being in the press box or having any contact with players.

Finally, the one major protocol mentioned in the memo that has dominated the Twittersphere today has been that players who are not vaccinated will not be allowed to attend clubs, bars, parties, other large events, etc. and they will be subject to major fines for each offense.

Along with the travel and day-to-day rules like the no mingling with other players rule, the “going out” rule I’ll call it will almost certainly change the minds of many players who decided to not get vaccinated.

By the way, the Seahawks are in the upper-half (and close to approaching the top tier) in vaccination rates among NFL teams.