Both the NFL and NFLPA appear united on putting as much pressure on players to receive one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines prior to the start of the 2021 season.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk passed this note along this morning:
Per a letter agreement dated Tuesday, a copy of which PFT has obtained, the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed that a team “may not challenge whether or not a player’s COVID-19 infection is football-related if . . . the player was fully vaccinated at the time he contracted the virus; and the player received an initial negative test for COVID-19 upon timely reporting to preseason training camp during the 2021 League Year, and he did not have a subsequent unexcused absence from preseason training camp.”
As Florio would go on to note, the logical conclusion then is that if a non-vaccinated player gets COVID-19 during the season, teams could attempt to withhold pay by saying that the player may have contracted the virus away from the field. The argument would be similar to a player who tears his ACL playing basketball, or doing something unrelated (and perhaps prohibited) to his contract as a football player.
It would be interesting to see if a team would be willing to challenge one of the more powerful players on their team, even if they technically can. Cam Newton missed time with COVID-19 last season, of course before there were any vaccines available. If someone with a resume - and social media following - like him caught it this year and wasn't unvaccinated, would a team attempt to avoid paying said player for the games missed? It's tough to know.
Based on the NFL's new guidelines for training camp and the preseason, there will be checks in place to try to prevent unvaccinated players from acquiring COVID-19, with a similar set-up presumably slated to be in place for the regular season:
The message from the NFL - one that doesn't seem to be receiving much, if any, pushback from the NFLPA - appears pretty simple: all you have to do is get vaccinated, and things will go back to something resembling normal.