The NFL was incredibly flexible playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic last season, but they will not be as accommodating in 2021.
In a memo Thursday, the league informed clubs they will not implement a Week 19 to play games postponed by coronavirus outbreaks. If they games cannot be reschedule within the 18-week length of the season, the result will be a forfeit for the team hit by the outbreak.
“We do not anticipate adding a ‘19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season,” the memo said.
In addition, the leagues added that teams responsible for the outbreak in such instances could be subject to discipline from the commissioner and responsible for financial losses stemming from the cancellation.
If a game is forfeited, no player from either team will receive their game check. Yep, no one gets paid, even if your team was not responsible.
“If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week scheduled due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary,” the memo said.
The NFL also released new COVID-19 protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
For those that are vaccinated and test positive, but asymptomatic, they can return to their responsibilities after two negative tests 24 hours apart.
Unvaccinated individual that test positive are still at risk of entering a ten-day mandatory quarantine.
In a nutshell, the NFL is mandating players, coaches and teams get the vaccine in a roundabout way. While not explicitly requiring the shot, the league has put in place clear incentives for those that have received theirs, and established significant financial and competitive risks for the unvaccinated.
Here’s more from today’s memo, which also says the team responsible for a canceled game because of an outbreak among unvaccinated players/staff will be responsible for financial losses and subject to potential discipline from the commissioner. Wow. pic.twitter.com/Q86a2WcG1K— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 22, 2021
With one of the highest vaccination rates in the league, the Pittsburgh Steelers have legitimately given themselves a competitive advantage with their strong participation.
In fact, Pittsburgh’s vaccine turnout has been so good that the subject is no longer even on head coach Mike Tomlin’s radar.
“We really kind of moved on, to be honest with you,” Tomlin said Thursday. “That’s why we wanted to be so proactive about addressing it, so we’re not spending a whole bunch of time thinking or talking about it. So, it’s a non-issue for us, thankfully, due to the efforts and willingness of our guys. We’re focused on football.”
While they had COVID-19 issues of their own at some points last season, the Steelers were victims of rescheduling on multiple occasions due to outbreaks among their opponents.