Could 2021 Be Deja Vu to 2020?

Oct 21, 2019; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) dives for a touchdown against New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley (57) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 season for the NFL was ravaged and negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and all told over 60 players decided to opt-out of the season due to protocols.

Those players will have a similar choice to make in advance of the 2021 season. The deadline, however, is shorter than last year. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, “NFL players have until 4 p.m. ET next Friday, July 2 to inform their team if they’re opting out of the 2021 season. Players deemed ‘higher risk’ for COVID are again entitled to a $350,000 stipend but voluntary opt-outs will not be compensated,” Pelissero also noted. “The stipend for voluntary opt-outs was $150,000 last season.”

While vaccines are now more readily available than last season, some players may still feel a bit hesitant to take the field for their squad. Some of the big names who opted out last season from the 67 players who decided to skip 2020 because of COVID include Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Dont’a Hightower, New York Jets middle linebacker CJ Mosley, and New York Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder.

Tough Decision With Opt Out

Of course, all opt-out decisions are final, so once a player says he is uncomfortable with the situation, he will not be able to play a game that season. But there are more details regarding certain voluntary opt-outs that Pelissero noted.

“He also reported that a voluntary opt-out is only available for players who executed their contracts prior to Oct. 1, 2020, which disqualifies 2021 rookies. A rookie may opt-out if they are classified as ‘higher risk,’ but the club still owns his rights. As was the case last year, all opt-out decisions are final.”

Benefit of Players Having Vaccine

And due to the vaccine, players who have gotten it will receive some extra benefits this season. Interestingly, the fully vaccinated players may receive bigger boosts. As noted in the article, “The NFL and NFLPA (NFL Players Association) agreed to more benefits for fully vaccinated players, via a memo obtained by Pelissero. Those include allowing them to collect per-game roster bonuses even if they miss a game because of a ‘breakthrough case’ and clubs not being able to challenge a COVID-19 infection under certain stipulations.”

And, as health orders are being lifted around the U.S., the NFL following suit and loosening its vice grip on its health and safety protocols. That doesn’t mean, however, that the ideals are completely gone.

Those requirements are loosened only for players who have received the required full amount of dosage against the disease. “Last week, Pelissero reported that fully vaccinated players will not be required to undergo daily COVID testing or wear face coverings at the team facility, and are not subject to a mandatory five-day isolation should they be exposed to a coronavirus-positive individual.”

While COVID is less prevalent for the 2021 campaign, NFL players will still have the option to opt-out if they don’t feel comfortable playing in a pandemic.