The NFL is going to get every dime they can from the 2021 season, especially after the 2020 season where the pandemic forced them to take losses due to lack of attendance.
The league released edicts to teams on Thursday indicating that they are not going to take a loss in revenue for the 2021 season due to players being hesitant or outright refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
None of this should be a surprise to players. The writing has been on the wall for months. The league doesn't care if players bothered to read it or not.
Short of an agreement with the NFLPA, the NFL cannot mandate vaccinations. However, after initially trying to incentivize players to get vaccinated with the promise of being back to normal in facilities and reduced restrictions on travel, the NFL is now taking steps toward doing everything short of mandating them.
Now, they are attempting to divide and conquer, now pinning players against each other to get players vaccinated, at least raising the possibility of attacking their money.
Players were already encouraging others to get vaccinated both for safety as they don't want to be infected or have family members be infected. Reaching the 85 percent threshold also meant life back much closer to normal within facilities.
Now, not only is the word forfeit being brought up but the specter of every player losing a game check. That a ton of money on the line for players at that point and they aren't letting it go over someone's hang ups on the vaccine.
For the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield recently came out supporting the vaccine and encouraging others to get it at a recent camp he hosted at Gilmour Academy.
“So, yeah, it definitely poses a competitive advantage for higher vaccine rates on your team just because of the close contact [rules] and what happens if somebody does unfortunately get COVID, what can happen to the rest of the building."
"Yeah, it's a competitive advantage, but it's also way more than that. It's about safety and just general health and well-being of human life.” - Baker Mayfield
The statement of support is certainly beneficial for the states of Ohio and likely Oklahoma, but the fact Mayfield is making a statement in terms of the context of being competitive in the NFL would at least suggest he's hoping some holdouts on his team will get it done.
John Johnson III, signed in free agency this offseason, has been the most vocal opponent of the vaccine. On social media, he has posted some anti-vaxx materials, most of which could just as well be applied to seatbelts.
Undoubtedly, there are some others that haven't been as up front about it.
Whether the reasoning for hesitancy is extremely well reasoned and thought out or its a product of misinformation, the league does not care. Their teammates certainly won't care if it could cost them a game check and going through training camp with an extra burden every day will not sit well with most either.
The way the NFL has released these edicts, they are providing cover for teams to get a roster over the threshold, thereby reducing their chances of a forfeit. Teams still can't simply say they are cutting a player for not being vaccinated, but they can release them for just about anything else.
Teams are incredibly unlikely to sign end of the roster or practice squad players who have not been vaccinated for the foreseeable future. This season, they may operate more like an actuary calculating risk assessment than in any other year.
Basically, if a player isn't going to be vaccinated, he better be good enough to get away with it, prudent enough to avoid infection and mentally tough enough to deal with frustrated teammates.
It's a little irritating that the NFL has released this just before the start of training camp as players who would get vaccinated in a two-step process would need three weeks to a month to complete it. Getting this out in June would have been better.
Nevertheless, players still have time to get vaccinated before roster cut downs toward the end of August.
The bottom line is NFL is going to get its money this year and they have proven any number of times in their history, be it a superstar player or a collection of players, they can still operate and people will continue to watch. The NFL is not for long and it might be even shorter for those who choose to forgo the vaccine., subscribing to nonsense about microchips, magnetizing skin or any other debunked theories.