While tremendous progress has been made in the United States with vaccines, we are still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and the more transmissible Delta variant may yet have an impact throughout the country (particularly in regions with lower vaccination rates).
With the NFL preseason less than two months away, the league has confirmed that players can still voluntarily opt out of this season for COVID-related concerns. Contracts will toll over into next season as was the case in 2020. What’s different this year is that voluntary opt outs will no longer receive a stipend.
In a memo sent to clubs Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed that only high-risk players will receive a stipend of $350,000. Voluntary opt-outs received a $150,000 stipend in 2020.
To qualify as high risk, a player must have opted out last season and have an effective contract executed before Oct. 1, 2020, or have been newly diagnosed with a CDC-defined higher-risk condition. Rookies wouldn’t be eligible unless they were diagnosed with a high-risk condition after signing a contract.
The NFL and the players’ union also agreed that fully vaccinated players who have a per-game roster bonus are eligible to receive that bonus even if they miss a game because of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
There were 67 opt-outs last season but only one from the Seattle Seahawks. Guard Chance Warmack did not play in 2020 and Seattle released him back in February. Star wide receiver Tyler Lockett had to put some serious thought into whether or not he would play given his heart abnormality and asthma. He has since been vaccinated.
The deadline for opting out of the 2021 season is Friday, July 2nd.