The NFL wants to return and operate under more normal conditions this upcoming season, and the league made its stance clear to players who haven't been vaccinated.
According to a memo shared online by NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, the league informed teams on Thursday that if a game can't be rescheduled and is canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players, that team will have to forfeit, and be credited with a loss. The league memo also stated that neither team's players will be paid for a game that's cancelled and unable to be rescheduled.
"I guarantee you [players] are having some heated discussions about this -- on an individual level and what's best for the team," former NFL linebacker Bobby Carpenter told The Zach Gelb Show on Thursday. "If you're really good, your coaches are going to say, 'Hey, we'd like you to get vaccinated, but we can't force you.' For a guy who's a fringe guy -- who might be replaceable -- there's a decent chance that if you're not vaccinated, they might not keep you on the 53-man roster. So, I think that's probably going to be the biggest delineating factor."
Players across the league have expressed frustration with the new policy. Arizona Cardinals star receiver Deandre Hopkins wrote in a now-deleted tweet, "Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL."
More than 78-percent of players leaguewide have received at least one shot, according to an NFL release, and 14 teams have at least 85-percent of players vaccinated. Pelissero also reported that all 32 teams are currently above the 50-percent vaccine threshold.
Vaccinated players who test positive for COVID-19 can return to their teams immediately after testing negative twice, while unvaccinated players will be required to isolate for 10 days, the memo says.
The entire NFL conversation between Carpenter and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.