The NFL and NFL Players Associated updated its COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 season last week. The league requires any staff working in close proximity to players to be vaccinated, but there is no vaccine mandate for players. Instead, the protocols lay out what vaccinated and unvaccinated players are allowed to do. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Vaccinated players will be tested once a week. Unvaccinated players will be tested every day. If an unvaccinated player misses a day of testing, he cannot enter the team facility again until he has five consecutive days of negative tests.
  • Vaccinated free agents or players acquired from other clubs must have one negative test before entering a team's facility. Such players who are unvaccinated have a five-day testing period before they can enter a team facility.
  • Unvaccinated players and staff must wear masks inside the team facility and outdoors if they are within close proximity to one another, except during practice sessions. During games, unvaccinated inactive players must wear masks on the sideline.
  • Physical distancing rules are in effect for unvaccinated players in various areas, including locker rooms, training rooms and meeting rooms.
  • If an unvaccinated player is deemed a high-risk close contact of a positive case, he must quarantine away from the team for five days. A vaccinated player who is a close contact isn't required to isolate.
  • Any unvaccinated player who tests positive for COVID-19 is subject to at least a 10-day quarantine. A vaccinated player who tests positive can return after two negative PCR tests taken at least 24 hours apart andif he is asymptomatic for 48 hours.
  • Vaccinated players are permitted to gather with other fully vaccinated players or team personnel outside of the team facility. Unvaccinated players are prohibited from gathering in groups of more than three players outside of the club facility or team travel.
  • Unvaccinated players can't take private transportation like taxis and car services while on the road, nor can they leave the team hotel to eat at restaurants open to the public. They also "are prohibited from congregating, visiting or mingling with individuals outside of the traveling party once they have arrived in the game city."
  • Unvaccinated players are subject to a slew of fines, starting at $14,650, for refusing to wear a mask or maintain physical distance; for going to an indoor night club or bar with more than 10 people in it; for going to an indoor concert; or for attending house gatherings of more than 15 people without all guests wearing masks.
  • A team will have to forfeit and be given a loss if a game is canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak among its unvaccinated players — and neither team's players will be paid. Last season, the NFL rescheduled games affected by COVID outbreaks and no games were missed. Games will not be rescheduled this season.