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NFL says teams face forfeits if games can’t be played due to COVID outbreak

NFL: NFL Draft Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the NFL managed to play all 269 of its regular season and postseason games without an outright cancellation due to COVID-19. Several matchups in the regular season were rescheduled and that’s how we ended up with some football on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. This came at a time when vaccines were under development and not yet available to the general population when rolled out.

Well now vaccines are readily available in the United States and the supply now clearly outpaces the demand. So what happens if an NFL team can’t make it to a game in 2021 if they have a Covid outbreak among their unvaccinated players? Well in a memo sent out by the league office on Thursday, an outright forfeit and an L in the record books is officially on the table.

“If a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule and is cancelled due to a Covid outbreak among unvaccinated players on one of the competing teams, the club with the outbreak will forfeit the contest and will be deemed to have played 16 games for purposes of the draft, waiver priority, etc. For the purposes of playoff seeding, the forfeiting teams will be credited with a loss and the other team will be credited with a win,” the memo reads.

It’s unknown what happens if both teams have simultaneous outbreaks.

Certainly the key phrase there is “if a game cannot be rescheduled” and we saw the NFL jump through hoops and re-arrange bye weeks to make sure every game was played. You wonder if they’ll go through those same lengths again or if they’re going to be less lenient with the calendar juggling. They certainly had a lot more leeway to do this last year when stadiums were (mostly) empty, whereas the plan this year is full capacity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reached a new phase with the extremely contagious delta variant sweeping across the United States, with the overwhelming majority of hospitalizations occurring among the unvaccinated population. Vaccination rates have slowed to a crawl and only half of the total population has been fully vaccinated. That honestly could produce a separate discussion over whether we might see the return of reduced capacity seating again but that’s not the goal of this article.

We do not know the Seahawks’ vaccination rate among players on the roster, but as of a week ago there were 13 teams who had crossed the 85% threshold and I’d like to think Seattle is one of those 13. The Colts, Chargers, Washington, and the Cardinals were at the bottom of the list and three of those teams are Seahawks opponents this season.

This is undoubtedly a big move by the NFL. Hopefully we don’t have to actually see forfeits occur under these circumstances. If we do, they will be the first official forfeits in league history.