“While there is no question that health conditions have improved from last year, we cannot be complacent or simply assume that we will be able to play without interruption — either due to Covid outbreaks among our clubs or outbreaks that occur within the larger community,” the memo from Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly states.
The burden of any financial fallout resulting from a game affected by a team Covid outbreak will also fall on that respective team, according to the memo.
The Biden administration repeatedly has said it is not requiring so-called vaccine passports or supporting nationwide vaccination mandates, instead preferring to leave private businesses and others to set their own rules. Vaccinations are tapering off across much of the country, even as the highly contagious Delta variant has increased caseloads and fatalities — with unvaccinated people making up the majority of those hospitalized with Covid.
Several high-profile outbreaks hit during last year’s NFL season, which ended in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl in February and visiting the White House earlier this week.
While no game was ultimately canceled, a number of contests had to be reshuffled — such as an October Tennessee Titans-Buffalo Bills game that became the league’s second Tuesday night match-up since 1946.
The memo stated that across the NFL, more than 75 percent of players are either vaccinated or in the process of doing so and that more than half of all teams have crossed the 80 percent mark.
The league said it will not mandate vaccinations among players, coaches or NFL staff, but it is imposing additional restrictions on unvaccinated players compared with those who are inoculated. Those include undergoing additional surveillance testing, mandatory mask wearing and social distancing from others in team facilities, as well as longer quarantine periods in the case of a positive Covid-19 test or close contact with someone else who tests positive.