From the Press Box: NFL treading in tricky waters in 2021

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As training camps start full force next week, the NFL has added a huge incentive to get their players vaccinated. Games could be forfeited if certain conditions are met.

The conditions are as follows:

• A game is postponed by requirement of government authorities or medical experts, or at the discretion of the commissioner, because of ongoing health concerns of an outbreak.

• The league can’t find a suitable date to reschedule within the 18-week framework of the regular season.

• The original postponement was caused by an outbreak among unvaccinated players of one team.

The third condition is huge. Last year, five games were postponed and 10 others were met to accommodate outbreaks.

At the moment, more than 78 percent of the players league-wide have at least one COVID-19 vaccine and 14 of the 32 teams have 85 percent of the players vaccinated according to Judy Battista of NFL.com.

For what it’s worth, if an outbreak among vaccinated players causes the postponement of a game, the League “will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.”

Up until this point, the NFL had only stated that vaccinated players can practically do things like normal while unvaccinated players will do business similar to last season during the pandemic.

This news has been met with resentment by the players.

Arizona Cardinals wideout DeAndre Hopkins tweeted, “Never thought I would say this, but being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL.” (The Tweet has since been deleted.)

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted, “Why is everyone tripping over the NFL memo? It doesn’t force you to get vaccinated. It just says if you want to be the reason why things are worse, your team will pay. There is a difference.”

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has also been very outspoken about the vaccine and his desire to not receive it.

As someone who is fully vaccinated, I do believe the NFL is treading in dangerous waters here.

The NBA, Major League Baseball and NHL were all able to have their seasons without putting in such a strict policy.

While football is the biggest and arguably the most physical of those sports, 78 percent of their players are vaccinated. The odds of an outbreak similar to what the Baltimore Ravens or Tennessee Titans had last year are pretty low.

But what if that outbreak happens and does include vaccinated players? Are they still going to force that team to forfeit? It says it will try to ease the competitive burden.

Not to put on my NFL tinfoil hat but I only think they will do that for one of their darling teams like the Chiefs, Ravens, Buccaneers, etc. I also don’t think they will make one of those darling teams forfeit either, in the event of an outbreak.

The NFL is a business, and wants to make money. People will watch Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson and other superstars.

If it’s a team like the Broncos who pay taxes on the property of mediocrity, or the Jacksonville Jaguars or any other irrelevant team, they will be forced to take the “L.”

It’ll be interesting to see if this policy comes into play or will be a non-story, especially considering most stadiums will be 100 percent full of fans.

John Lee is the editor of The Pampa News and can be reached at pampanewseditor@gmail.com or find him on Twitter: @jcl1987.

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