While many players have expressed discontent about the NFL's latest policy changes in regard to COVID-19 protocols, the Seahawks look to be in good shape on the vaccination front with training camp set to open next week.
According to multiple sources, more than 90 percent of Seattle's roster has been fully vaccinated, has been scheduled for a second dose, or is in the 14-day window after receiving a second dose. Per Judy Battista of NFL Network, that would make the organization one of nine teams to reach that mark thus far.
On Thursday, the NFL sent a memo to all 32 franchises to inform them schedules would not be extended to accommodate for a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players that causes a game to be cancelled. If a game cannot be rescheduled, the team with the outbreak could be liable for a forfeiture of the game and handed a loss in the standings.
Additionally, players from both teams would not be paid for the missed game, leaving the responsible team to cover financial losses and be subjected to discipline from commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office.
"If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a COVID spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the COVID infection," the memo reads. "We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams."
The memo also indicated vaccinated players who have a positive COVID-19 test will be eligible to return after having two negative tests 24 hours apart if they are asymptomatic. Unvaccinated players who test positive will still face a 10-day quarantine in isolation like last season.
Up to this point, the NFL has insisted it would not make vaccinations mandatory for players. But this latest development provides the most substantial incentives from a competition standpoint for teams to push players towards getting vaccinated. Harsh penalties such as forfeited games and lost salary from cancelled games make the league's stance on the issue very clear: get vaccinated or risk hurting your team and your wallet.
As expected, the news was not met favorably by many NFL players, including Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The perennial All-Pro voiced his displeasure on Twitter, tweeting he would "question" his future in the NFL if not getting a vaccine hurt his team's chances of winning. He deleted the tweet moments after posting.
"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," Hopkins tweeted.
Hopkins wasn't alone responding to the NFL's new policy. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, in response to a tweet from revered quarterbacks coach Quincy Avery, tweeted that he knew two vaccinated people who have tested positive for COVID and that he "wouldn't look at a teammate as bad if he don't get the vax, no pressure 5."
Among others who spoke out against getting vaccinated, Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette wrote, "Vaccine I can't do it....." before eventually deleting the tweet.
Even Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed, who admitted he has been vaccinated, took issue with the league's policies being catered towards incentivizing vaccinations for a competitive advantage.
Though players such as Hopkins and Fournette were among a large contingency of players to speak out on social media, the NFL appears to be achieving the results it hoped for with the new season approaching. Per multiple reports, more than 80 percent of players in the league have been vaccinated and at least 14 teams have reached the 85 percent threshold.
As for coaches, the NFL requires all Tier 1 employees to be vaccinated in order to have contact with players. This means any coach who chooses not to be vaccinated would have to coach from their office in isolation, which explains why the Vikings were forced to part ways with offensive line coach Rick Dennison, who refused to get the vaccine. In coming days, other coaches around the league may see a similar fate.
But in Seattle, such a last-minute coaching change shouldn't occur. During mandatory minicamp last month, coach Pete Carroll told reporters the team's entire coaching staff had been vaccinated.
While it remains to be seen whether or not the Seahawks will get to 100 percent of their roster being vaccinated, they are already one of a handful of teams closing in on that goal. As the league continues to push for players to receive their shots through policy changes and competitive incentives, the few remaining holdovers may have a far more difficult time continuing to refuse the vaccine.