NFL: Miami Dolphins Grand Opening-Baptist Health Training Complex

After rescheduling games during the 2020 season in which teams were struck with a number of players lost due to COVID-19, the NFL announced Thursday that similar situations during the 2021 season could result in a forfeit.

The NFL will not postpone or reschedule games in the 2021 season should a team have too many unvaccinated players unavailable due to COVID-19, according to a memo the league issued to its 32 teams on Thursday.

The memo will be the topic of a scheduled call among all teams set for Thursday night.

The league played a full schedule last season without a cancellation amid an ongoing pandemic but juggled games and bye weeks to make it happen. That won’t be the case this year with the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine, the memo said.

Instead, NFL Network reported, a game that last year would have been rescheduled this year will result in a forfeit for the team that has a virus outbreak. The team will take a loss and could be subject to covering financial losses and league discipline.

Players on both teams would not receive a game check since the game wasn’t played.

The league memo said nearly all clubs have reached 100% vaccination of Tier 1 and 2 staff members. In addition, more than 75% of players are “in the process of being vaccinated” and more than half of the clubs have vaccination rates exceeding 80% among players.

The NFL cannot mandate player vaccination, but is working with the NFL Players Association on education about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. The memo steps up the pressure on teams to address issues about the vaccine with their players.

“Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place. A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental,” the memo reads. “There is no right to postpone a game. Postponements will only occur if required by government authorities, medical experts, or at the Commissioner’s discretion.”

It continued: “In light of the substantial roster flexibility in place for the 2021 season, absent medical considerations or government directives, games will not be postponed or rescheduled simply to avoid roster issues caused by injury or illness affecting multiple players, even within a position group.”

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