When the Jaguars trimmed their roster to 53 players on Tuesday, they didn't just take into account offseason performances. According to new coach Urban Meyer, Jacksonville also factored whether or not players were vaccinated for COVID-19 into decisions related to the NFL's cut-down deadline. Now, the NFL Players Association has opened an investigation into the situation, per ProFootballTalk.
The NFLPA hasn't commented on Meyer's remarks other than to say the coach's statements directly led to their next steps. The NFL, meanwhile, does not mandate players be vaccinated for COVID-19 but has implemented stricter protocols for players and staff who are unvaccinated entering the 2021 season. According to ProFootballTalk, the league's current rules prohibit teams from using vaccination status to inform employment decisions.
The Jaguars clarified their stance on vaccines' impact on roster decisions in a team statement on Wednesday: "Availability is one of the many factors taken into account when making roster decisions. We have vaccinated and unvaccinated players on our roster, and no player was released because of their vaccination status. Ultimately, decisions are based on a player's ability to help the Jaguars win. We educate our players and respect personal decisions as it pertains to the vaccine. We want to keep our players, staff and families safe as we comply with protocols related to both health and safety and competition on game days."
Meyer's comments were first reported by John Reid of the Florida Times-Union, and came in response to questions about the process of deciding between players for the final roster.
''Everyone was considered," the coach said. "That was part of the production and also, was he vaccinated or not. To say that was a decision-maker, it certainly was under consideration.''
Meyer isn't the first notable name to spark controversy over vaccine-related remarks in the NFL. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said early this offseason that he would cut any player who didn't receive the COVID vaccine before facing backlash from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and eventually, per ProFootballTalk, addressing the comments with league executives.