The NFL has informed teams they could potentially forfeit a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players, and players on both teams wouldn't get paid that week.
“As we learned last year, we can play a full season if we maintain a firm commitment to adhering to our health and safety protocols and to making needed adjustments in response to changing conditions,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo sent to teams Thursday.
Goodell says the league doesn’t not anticipate adding a 19th week to accommodate games that can’t be rescheduled within 18-week regular season.
However, forfeits are among the consequences.
“If a game can’t be rescheduled and is canceled due to a COVID outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the competing teams, the team with the outbreak will forfeit and will be deemed to have played 16 games for purposes of draft, waiver priority, etc,” Goodell says in the memo.
For purposes of playoff seeding, the forfeiting team will be credited with a loss and the other team will be credited with a win. Teams would also be required to cover lost revenue for those games.
The league acknowledged, however, that some outbreaks are outside of a team's control, and the league will show some leniency in the case of outbreaks among vaccinated individuals.
"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 reads.
As of Thursday, 14 NFL teams have at least 85% of their players fully vaccinated, and 78% of players in the league have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a league spokesperson told USA Today.
Nearly all clubs have vaccinated 100% of their Tier 1 and 2 staffs. Teams have appropriate protocols set up for staffers who have not been vaccinated, consistent with the guidance given last April.
Among the other key points in the memo:
- If a vaccinated person tests positive and is asymptomatic, he or she will be isolated and contact tracing will promptly occur; the positive individual will be permitted to return to duty after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, and will thereafter be tested every two weeks or as directed by the medical staffs. Vaccinated individuals will not be subject to quarantine as a result of close contact with an infected person.
- If an unvaccinated person tests positive, the protocols from 2020 will remain in effect; The person will be isolated for a period of 10 days and will then be permitted to return to duty if asymptomatic. Unvaccinated individuals will continue to be subject to a five-day quarantine period if they have close contact with an infected individual.
- Anyone who had a previous COVID-19 infection will be considered fully vaccinated 14 days after they have had at least one dose of an approved vaccine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.