Report: NFL and NFLPA Issue Strict Preseason Protocols For Unvaccinated Players and Coaches

The NFL and NFLPA have reportedly issued strict protocols for the preseason, applying to those players and coaches who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine.
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The NFL and NFLPA are setting strict restrictions for players who are unvaccinated for COVID-19, according to a memo sent to teams. The memo has been shared on social media by various NFL personnel and media.

Until this point, NFL clubs had been operating under much the same protocols set forth for the 2020 season and there had been no guidelines set for once the offseason was complete. Now, with teams around the league wrapping up or having already concluded their OTA’s and mini-camps, the league and players association have revealed their criteria for training camp and the preseason. Training camp is set to begin on July 27.

At time of print, these guidelines have not been extended to the regular season.

Fully vaccinated players and staff (those possessing proof of vaccination) will not be required to do the following: take daily COVID tests, wear mask in the facility or during travel, physical distance, quarantine after high risk exposure COVID contact or be beholden to travel restrictions. They will 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.

Those who are not vaccinated will be required to do daily testing. They will also be regulated to the following protocols: mask wearing at the facility and during travel, maintain physical distance at the facility, quarantine after high risk exposure to COVID, adhere to travel restrictions, not enter the weight room when capacity is over 15 people, maintain physical distance in the cafeteria and not eat with teammates (staff must get grab-and-go), may not participate in marketing or sponsorship activities, may not use the sauna or steam room and may not leave the hotel during road game travel to eat in restaurants, or interact with anyone outside of the team traveling party.

Players who are not vaccinated and break certain rules—along with breaking other protocols—will be levied with a variety of fines ranging from $14,650 to $50,000.

Clubs will be permitted to welcome fans at training camp. Albeit all fans must be kept at least 20 feet from Tier 1 staff members (i.e. coaching staff) and players at all times. No pictures or autographs will be permitted. Media will be allowed to attend games and conduct in-person interviews, but must be fully vaccinated and maintain social distancing.

Vaccinated players need only test once every 14 days. Non-vaccinated players and Tier 1 staff must first go through a five-day pre-entry testing gauntlet and then be tested every day. If a day is missed, they must start the five day re-entry testing process again before being admitted back to training camp.

It was previously reported that those in the process of being fully vaccinated are permitted access to the practice field and other restricted areas—while wearing a mask—except for the athletic training room, weight room, players locker room or cafeteria if players are present in the previous four places. They are also not allowed to be in in-person meetings or travel with the team.

Those with an approved religious or medical exemption face the same aforementioned restrictions as those in the process of becoming fully vaccinated.

Furthermore, to be eligible for Tier 1 or Tier 2 status, staff must be fully vaccinated or have an approved medical or religious exemption. 

This is the strictest protocol laid down by the league and PA since the beginning of the global pandemic. While players and staff aren’t being forced to receive vaccinations, the message is clear; those who don’t have a long road ahead. And unlike during the 2020 season, this won’t necessarily be “we’re all in this together situation” with potentially the majority of the team being allowed to go about lives/season like normal.

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told clubs in May that in order to be fully vaccinated by the start of training camp in late July, coaches, players and staffs receiving the two dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine would have needed to receive their shot last week (week of June 7).

These protocols put the onus on coaches and players to get vaccinated but also clubs to push their members to do so.

Head Coach Urban Meyer said on June 8, “We have a couple that—many of them came out and got the vaccine, it just takes a while to get fully vaccinated. Whether it’s the one shot, I believe it’s a two-week [period] and the two shot takes a while.”