NFL training camps are underway, and conversations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continue to surface. Most recently, the NFL has announced that they will not mandate vaccinations, but rather put restrictions in place for non-vaccinated players.
According the NFL.com, "NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Thursday that the NFL sent a memo to its clubs stating that if a game cannot be rescheduled during the 18-week schedule due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will forfeit and be credited with a loss, per sources informed of the situation.
In addition, players on both teams will not be paid for the lost contest, and the team responsible for the cancelled game due to unvaccinated players will cover financial losses and be subject to potential discipline from the Commissioner's office."
Some players have pushed back on the NFL's new policies, including wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins who publicly vocalized pondering retirement following the NFL's new measures. In a now deleted tweet, Hopkins wrote:
"Never thought I would say this, But being 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." After deleting his initial tweet, he tweeted: "Freedom?"
One player who had an opposite reaction to Hopkins was Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The former USC wideout confirmed his vaccination status to reporters on Friday, as well as his opinion on the controversial topic.
“I think everyone has a say, everyone has a voice, everyone can — we’re all adults,” Smith-Schuster said. “At the end of the day, it’s their own health and their own body. so I can’t speak for them. I just feel like — do whatever’s right for you. For me, obviously, I got the vaccine, and that’s just how I feel. Obviously, with everything that’s going on, it’s tough for everybody and their decision, so I can understand.”
Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal with the Steelers worth $8 million this offseason after spending four seasons with the team. He was a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In 2020, the TikTok star tallied 97 catches, 831 yards and nine touchdowns. During his NFL career he has amassed 308 receptions, 3,726 yards, and 26 scores.
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