Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Football Team
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In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL -- like all of the major professional sports in North America -- allowed its players the option to opt out of the 2020 season in the event they had any concerns about playing under such unprecedented conditions. As one may imagine, that option was utilized by a number of players throughout the league as 67 of them elected to sit out as the NFL moved forward with the 2020 campaign. While the pandemic is waning and various stadiums are planning to host fans at full capacity next season, the league is going to give players the option to opt out if they still have concerns about playing. 

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, players have until 4 p.m. ET on Friday, July 2 to inform their teams if they plan to opt out of the 2021 season. Players who are deemed high risk for COVID are entitled to a $350,000 stipend, which is what they saw a year ago. Voluntary opt-outs, however, will not receive a stipend contrary to the $150,000 they received last year. 

Meanwhile, only players who executed their contracts prior to Oct. 1 of last year are eligible to take a voluntary opt-out, meaning rookies are ineligible. A rookie that is deemed to be high risk may still opt out and the club will simply continue to hold his rights. 

Pelissero adds that a memo was sent out to teams on Wednesday that highlighted an agreement between the league and the NFLPA that creates more benefits for vaccinated players. That includes fully vaccinated players being allowed to collect a per-game roster bonus even if they miss a game due to a "breakthrough case." 

With vaccines readily available this time around, it will be interesting to see how many players elect to opt out of the 2021 season, if any. If they do make the call to take the NFL up on that option by the 4 p.m. ET deadline on July 2, however, it's worth noting that all decisions are final.