Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski referred to having a high vaccination rate from COVID-19 among players as a competitive advantage. According to Aditi Kinkhabwala, the team is trending in the right direction, having more than 51 players vaccinated out of a 90 man roster.
Teams and the NFL as a whole are taking this very seriously, trying to find different ways to motivate players to get vaccinated, because it does provide tangible benefits for their team.
For the team, the league has said there will be a benefit in terms of eased restrictions for teams that are able to reach 85 percent among their players. It's not clear exactly how that will manifest itself, but if achieving that mark allows teams to have closer to a normal, pandemic free environment during the season, that is a real advantage.
Unvaccinated players, under the league's protocols from last year, must take a test everyday, which means dedicating time to do it. Beyond that, they can't lift with teammates, they must carry out any food in the cafeteria and cannot utilize extras like the sauna within the building. They also have travel and marketing restrictions.
Bigger picture, teams want to maximize revenue for this year and positive tests are bad optics when a team is trying to fill up training camp and their stadium for the season.
So there is a competitive advantage as well as a business benefit for teams to encourage their players to get vaccinated.
Just within the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are teams that are among the closest in the NFL to reaching that 85 percent mark.