Yes, the NFL was able to play a complete 2020 season despite a raging COVID-19 pandemic, but it wasn't pretty. There were several instances of teams violating protocol that led to outbreaks within clubs -- like the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens -- forcing the league to scramble in rescheduling games. At times, it was an unmitigated disaster that drew complaints from teams who felt they were being put at a competitive disadvantage if they were set to play an offending team, and the NFL is ready to remedy that for 2021, and in a big way.
The league has notified all 32 clubs that in the event a game can't be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak that stems from unvaccinated players, that team will forfeit that contest and a loss will be tagged to their record (their opponent will be awarded a win) -- CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones confirmed -- and it will impact playoff seeding. What's more is that the league isn't stopping there, but also making the offending team responsible for financial losses stemming from the canceled contest, and additionally it will be subject to direct punishment from commissioner Roger Goodell in addition to these two penalties.
"If a club cannot play due to a Covid spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams," the league's front office said in the memo. "... 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. There is no right to postpone a game."
This is a complete about-face from the acquiescence by the NFL last season, and it's a huge push toward getting everyone in the league vaccinated. To that point, the memo also notes that vaccinated individuals who test positive and are asymptomatic can return to the team after two negative tests if they are 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated individuals, however, are still banned/isolated for 10 days.The message the league is sending each team is crystal clear at this point: if you want to compete for a Super Bowl in 2021 and without any added handicap, take vaccinations seriously.
Otherwise, deal with the potential fallout if COVID-19 strikes your roster by way of an unvaccinated person.