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NFL teams will forfeit games, player pay if they can’t play due to COVID-19

The NFL has finalized a COVID-19 policy for the 2021 season. It’s putting the onus on teams to get their players vaccinated.

Cole Beasley of the Buffalo Bills during mandatory minicamp on June 16, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York. Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images

The NFL made an important announcement on Thursday that appears designed to increase the amount of vaccinated NFL players. The league announced that teams which are unable to play games due to COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players will forfeit games that can’t be rescheduled within the 18-week regular season.

In addition, players on BOTH teams won’t be paid for games that aren’t played as well. So even if it’s the other team’s fault that a game is not being played, players on both teams will be punished. It seems a good bet that peer pressure will work to boost the vaccination rate across the league.

Some key takeaways:

“We do not anticipate adding a 19th week to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled.”

“If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary.”

This appears to be Commissioner Roger Goodell pointing a gun at the 32 franchises and saying “get the vaccine, or get some problems.” This should ratchet up the peer pressure in locker rooms with teammates holding each other accountable for their status. At same time, it’s unclear how the specific part about forfeiting player pay would hold up before an arbitrator.

The Colts and the Washington Football Team are the two worst franchises in terms of vaccination rates, with both clubs under 50% as of last week. There are also a cadre of outspoken players, such as Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley, who have publicly stated their aversion to receiving the shots that have been proven safe and effective in guarding against severe COVID-19 symptoms for those vaccinated.