AP Photo/Jack Dempsey
Vaccines are free and widely available in the United States at this point of the COVID-19 pandemic, but four NFL teams are reportedly less than half vaccinated despite the potential competitive disadvantages that may present during the 2021 campaign.
According to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the Washington Football Team, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers are all under the 50 percent vaccination rate as training camp approaches.
That is notable for a number of reasons, including the additional restrictions unvaccinated players will face this season.
As Maaddi noted, the league and its players association updated protocols that require those who are not vaccinated to go through daily testing, wear masks and practice physical distancing. What’s more, they will be isolated from teammates because they cannot eat meals with them, participate in media or marketing activities during travel, or leave the team hotel on the road.
By contrast, vaccinated players do not have to worry about any of those restrictions.
Teams will also have to implement methods, such as the use of credentials, that will make visually identifying fully vaccinated Tier 1 and Tier 2 individuals straightforward.
Having a large number of unvaccinated players may also serve as a competitive disadvantage when the season starts. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported in June that fully vaccinated individuals will not be placed into the mandatory five-day isolation if they are exposed to a COVID-positive individual.
Unvaccinated players still will be, which could lead to missed games for key pieces of the roster.
The NFL did not cancel any of its regular season games in 2020, although there were plenty of disruptions with schedule readjustments, delays and fan limitations.