The COVID-19 vaccine is out and readily available throughout the country, and the NFL is heavily encouraging their players to get vaccinated. According to Mark Maske of The Washington Post, over half of the players in the league have received the vaccine thus far. However, players on the Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Chargers are reportedly falling behind in the vaccination rates.
Report: Jaguars, Chargers, Two Others With Low Vaccination Rates
While it is not mandatory, the league has created guidelines that heavily encourage vaccination for both players and coaches. In the case of the players, anyone that has received the vaccine is allowed to essentially ignore 2020’s regulations and go back to the way things were, with some restrictions. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough to inspire some players, and the NFL isn’t all that close to reaching their 85% vaccination goal.
Once teams reach that 85% vaccination rate, the NFL will allow the organization to relax some of their COVID-19 protocols, even for players that are not vaccinated. Maske doesn’t mention if any teams have reached that threshold, but the fact that over 50% of the players are vaccinated despite low rates from four organizations implies that a few teams could be close.
Teams are not allowed to make roster decisions based on roster status, but it’s going to be hard for the NFL to actually enforce that. While some of NFL’s top players are roster locks, it’s easy to imagine vaccination status being the tiebreaker for guys on the bubble. After all, if two players can play at relatively equal levels for the same pay, the team is probably going to keep the guy that doesn’t carry the risk of a two-week mandatory quarantine.
Maske’s report doesn’t say why the Jaguars, Chargers, Cardinals, and Colts aren’t getting vaccinated, and the league has not publicly released vaccination rates.
What’s Next For the NFL
Even though some players are choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the league should still carry on as scheduled. 2020 proved that it is possible to have a season in the middle of a pandemic, but it’s not an easy thing to do. The NFL made it through the season without canceling a game, but they postpone quite a few and had key players miss several contests thanks to exposure to the virus.
While players can more-or-less go about their lives without the vaccine, NFL guidelines are practically forcing coaches to be vaccinated. Receiving the vaccine gives coaches Tier 1 status, meaning that they are allowed to work within close proximity to players. It’s very hard to do your job as a coach without getting close to the players, and the vast majority have received the vaccine.
Having 50% of the players vaccinated is obviously a good thing, and the league will try to increase that number as they get closer to the start of the season. Only time will tell if they can reach that 85% vaccination league league-wide, but a few teams should be able to get there.
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