A week after the NFL released a memo outlining strict protocols for unvaccinated players during the 2021 preseason, it appears some teams are taking the league's lead -- including the Jacksonville Jaguars.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Jaguars are one of the teams that have seen an increase in COVID-19 vaccines following the memo.
"Jaguars, Panthers among teams that saw a spike in Covid-19 vaccines at the end of training camp, after the NFL's memo about restrictions on unvaccinated players, I'm told," Fowler tweeted on Friday.
This is encouraging news for the Jaguars after Mark Maske of 'The Washington Post' reported last week that the Jaguars were among the teams lagging behind others in the league in vaccinations. Other teams included fellow AFC South opponent Indianapolis Colts, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals.
The NFL and NFLPA have come just short of mandating its players and coaches to get vaccinated this offseason, a movement that has met some resistance by players such as Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley.
Fully vaccinated players and staff will not be required TO take daily COVID tests, wear masks in the facility or during travel, physical distance, quarantine after high-risk exposure COVID contact or be limited to potential travel restrictions. They will be also be allowed to work out in the weight room and in the cafeteria with no capacity restrictions, use the sauna and steam room, participate in marketing and sponsorship opportunities and interact with vaccinated family and friends during road game travel, according to the NFL's memo.
Those who are not vaccinated will be required to do daily testing and will have to adhere to the following protocols: mask-wearing at the facility and during travel, maintaining physical distance at the facility, quarantining after high-risk exposure to COVID, adhering to travel restrictions, not entering the weight room when capacity is over 15 people, maintaining physical distance in the cafeteria and not eating with teammates, not participating in marketing or sponsorship activities, not using the sauna or steam room and not leaving the hotel during road game travel to eat in restaurants, or interact with anyone outside of the team traveling party.
The prevailing thought has been that players without vaccinations will be limited throughout the season due to the protocols. As a result, a large amount of players on a roster not vaccinated could lead to genuine competitive disadvantages, which Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer spoke to earlier this month.
“The unvaccinated players are going to have a harder time in the season,” Zimmer said according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
“They’re going to be wearing masks, they’ll have to social distance. They’ll have daily testings. They won’t be able to go home for bye week. They’ll have to come back here and test every day.
“When we go on the road, they won’t be able to go out to dinner with anybody. They’ll have to travel on buses differently, travel on planes differently. A lot of the meetings will be virtual like this, so there’s not only the safety part of being vaccinated, but as far as being part of a football team, it’s just going to be so much easier.”
With the Jaguars reportedly seeing a spike in vaccines following the league's memo, they may be at the mercy of the NFL's strict protocols to a lesser extent this year than previously expected. For a team with so many new faces on the roster and coaching staff, avoiding such competitive disadvantages could prove to be immensely impactful.