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The NFL Covid-19 vaccine policy is a fair rule that makes sense

By Chris Schisler

For the NFL, it’s fairly simple. Get vaccinated or you’re responsible for the ramifications. It’s still a choice. The NFL isn’t making players get the vaccine. The NFL also isn’t making it easy to be unvaccinated. They shouldn’t make it easy either.

The NFL just got through the strangest season in its history. The league had to reschedule games, deal with outbreaks of the pandemic in team facilities and handle unprecedented circumstances. The Baltimore Ravens were right in the middle of that. The outbreak at the facilities in Owings Mills prevented the Ravens and Steelers from clashing on Thanksgiving night. The situation around that game was crazy and neither team ended up all that happy with the way it played out.

The Denver Broncos were essentially forced to play a game without a quarterback because all of their quarterbacks were on the Covid list. John Elway was not a happy camper with how the NFL handled that situation. To be fair to Elway (which isn’t easy to be as a Baltimore guy), it wasn’t fun stuff. It was a bag of worms without a manual.

The policy:

Last season there wasn’t a vaccine for the pandemic. This season there is a vaccine. Last season it was all about constant testing and following new protocols to keep out of trouble. This season there is a vaccine. This means they went from having a problem they couldn’t do anything about to having a problem they can minimize a great deal. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network has broken it down on Twitter and quite frankly made this as simple as I’ve seen it laid out.


It’s a little bit like the whole free speech thing. Just like you can say what you want to, you can choose to not get the vaccine. Just like with the whole saying whatever you want a thing, you aren’t protected from the repercussions of your choice. Tom Pelissero reported on what those repercussions could be for unvaccinated players if there is an outbreak in the locker room.

This is actually kind of a brilliant rule. If a game can’t be played due to Covid-19, the unvaccinated parties are held responsible but the entire team (and their opposing team) is deprived of a game check. Does it pressure players to get vaccinated? You bet it does. Does it force it on them to participate? No.

Getting vaccinated is a personal choice that has been politicized. Is it ironic that so many of the people who wanted to keep politics out of football have brought politics into this as a reason not to get vaccinated? Yes. It’s richer than Berger Cookies. I need a glass of milk just after writing that sentence.

Why this is a fair rule:

What the NFL did was create a fair rule. It reflects on the situation we are in as members of the world. The pandemic isn’t over. There are pockets in this country where covid-19 rates are going up and restrictions are being put back into place. Not shockingly, they coincide with places with lower rates of people who are vaccinated. In the NFL’s rule, one player’s actions can cause a problem for two entire teams.

In the grand scheme if we all did our part and got vaccinated when it was our turn we’d be lightyears ahead of where we are fighting this global pandemic. Covid-19 is everyone’s problem and I really don’t care what political aisle you’re in, that’s not a debatable point.

Now it’s important to note that politics isn’t the only reason players are using for not wanting the vaccine. Not everyone is going off the rails and threatening retirement because they “Don’t want to be controlled man.” It’s not just players like Cole Beasley making it painfully obvious what it’s about. There are all sorts of reasons. There are medical reasons, religious reasons and hey, everyone is entitled to their opinion.

The good news for the NFL is that most of the league is already vaccinated. Pro Football Talk reports that 80 percent of NFL players have had at least one shot of the Covid-19 vaccine. According to the report by Michael David Smith: 

Nine teams now have more than 90 percent of their players vaccinated. Five teams are bringing up the rear with less than 70 percent of their players vaccinated.”

The good news is that this really hasn’t been all that divisive, or at least divisive in the way that you’d think it was from us continually talking about it. Most of the league’s players are vaccinated which reduces the risk of Covid-19 related problems over the course of the 17 game season and the playoffs.

With these policies, the number of unvaccinated players is going to go down fairly quickly. Whether you view it as an unfair incentive or not, that’s exactly what the policies give the NFL players. The headlines are going to stink for a while. Coaches are already parting with teams because of the vaccine issue. Each disgruntled member of the NFL, whether it’s a player, coach, or staff member, will cause more and more headlines and debates.

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We’re going to have a mostly straightforward season. In the end, the number of unvaccinated players will dwindle. Until this pandemic is over, the risk will always be there. When you consider all the logistics, this rule is fair. When you consider the situation, this is an understandable rule.


I am Chris Schisler. I am the owner and lead writer here at the Nest! Football is my passion and I'm very happy to share it with the Flock!

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