I’m thrilled the National Football League will be imposing a new “forfeit rule” this upcoming year. If a team can’t field a roster due to COVID, well, that's too damn bad. It’s counted as a forfeit. The opponent is given the victory. I LOVE this. It incentivizes EVERYONE to stay safe and act smart (and get the vaccine). And then, if a team loses a few starters, so what? That’s what second- and third-stringers are for. If half the team is out, then play the other 25 players. It’s a TEAM game, folks. Play the game as long as 11 able bodies can somehow be found. Otherwise, it’s a forfeit. Great policy. Too bad the NFL can’t also impose vaccine requirements on ALL fans in attendance. Now, that would really be AWESOME.
Here are three key takeaways from the NFL's new policy on how the league will handle COVID cases during the upcoming 2021 regular season:
- The NFL says that games would only be postponed if required by government authorities, medical experts or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
- The league says more than 75 percent of active “players are in the process of being vaccinated.”
- If games are moved or canceled due to unvaccinated individuals, teams and players could also face harsh financial penalties.
Instead of shuffling games around like pieces on a checkers board, the NFL should have done this last season. COVID is serious business, and if a starter tests positive, then keep them off the field and move on to the next player on the depth chart. That's how it should work.
On Friday, the NFL informed all team executives and head coaches that it doesn’t plan to reschedule any games as it did during the 2020 season due to outbreaks, marking a major departure from the confusion of last year. The league also says teams have vaccinated 100 percent of their staffs and set up protocols for those who aren’t vaccinated. While the NFL can't force players to get the vaccine, the announcement that if games are moved or canceled due to unvaccinated individuals teams and players could also face financial penalties should have a major impact.
This means that "guaranteed money" in contracts can become unguaranteed, and players could be fined under detrimental conduct language. The NFL Players Association warned its constituency of the league’s stance on postponing games, urging unvaccinated players to seek vaccination and avoid contract issues. The NFLPA sent out a memo of its own on this week, reminding players, “if games were missed because of a COVID-19 outbreak, nobody would have gotten paid.”
As for team responsibilities, clubs experiencing the outbreak will be held responsible for all additional expenses incurred by the opposing team and will also be required to pay any shortfall between actual and expected payment to the VTS (visiting team’s share) pool. Just, wow! In addition, clubs suffering forfeits will have losses attached to their W-L record, seriously threatening their postseason chances. More – just, wow!
“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.” – NFL Memo
The league’s hard stance on postponing games will also protect television networks who just agreed to a media deal worth more than $100 billion. Note, that's BILLION, with a "B."
Now, we get to the real issue that makes the NFL world spin around – television money.
Note that in 2020, the rescheduling of games causes massive conflicts for network partners. The NFL rescheduled several games at the last minute due to Covid outbreaks, including the much-anticipated Week 12 contest between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. That game was initially set for Thanksgiving night but was postponed three times.
NFL training camps will open at the end of this month in preparation for the 2021 season. The Dallas Cowboys vs. Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick-off the new year on September 9th.