Earlier this week, the NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams detailing its coronavirus protocols for the 2021 season. Among the changes this year, as confirmed by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, is that in the event a game can't be rescheduled because of a COVID-19 outbreak that stems from unvaccinated players, that team will forfeit that contest.
According to ESPN.com, the league will fine unvaccinated players $14,650 for each violation of the league's COVID-19 protocols, such as not wearing a mask in areas where it is mandated to do so, or attending a crowded, indoor event.
A Saturday morning report from the Tampa Bay Times made it seem as though Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians had said this week the team itself would be fining unvaccinated players, but Arians and league spokesman Brian McCarthy later confirmed to ESPN that Arians was simply reiterating the league policy.
Arians did not specify how many Bucs players are vaccinated but said the team will meet the 85 percent mark by the end of training camp. The Bucs were among the teams with the fewest missed games because of COVID-19 last season, with just three players having to sit out after contracting the virus or being in close contact with someone who had done so.
"It's just a matter of staying healthy," Arians said. "You're not going to win with third-stringers. I've been down that road. We had a really, really good team in Arizona. We lose David Johnson, we lose Carson Palmer, we lose our tackle. You can't control injuries. If they happen, they happen. We were very fortunate last year, and our training staff and sports science staff was terrific, and that had a lot to do with injury prevention."
Arians also said the Bucs have not brought in any doctors or vaccine specialists to address the team as a whole, according to ESPN, but noted that there is a rather simple way for unvaccinated players to avoid fines or causing the team to forfeit a game: "Just follow last year's rules."