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Notes: NFL tells teams they could forfeit if unvaccinated players cause COVID outbreak

The NFL is sending a clear message to players on just what going unvaccinated in 2021 could cost.

NFL: JAN 03 Packers at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL will not extend its season to reschedule cancelled matchups due to COVID-19 outbreaks among unvaccinated players and both teams will be held financially responsible, the league informed clubs in a memo Thursday.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero obtained a copy of a memo sent to teams that indicates, among updated COVID-19 protocols, that there could be forfeited games in 2021. The memo states that if a game that needs to be rescheduled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players cannot be rescheduled during the 18-week season, the team will forfeit and be credited with a loss.

The league says it intends to play its entire 272-game schedule over 18 weeks and: “We do not anticipate adding a ‘19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.”

Per the memo, the team experiencing the outbreak will forfeit the contest and be deemed to have played 16 games for purposes of draft, waiver priority, and other things. For playoff seeding, the outbreak team will be given a loss and the opposing team credited with a win. They’ll also be “responsible for all additional expenses incurred but the opposing team and will also be required to pay any shortfall between actual and expected payment to the VTS pool.”

On top of that, the players won’t get paid — none of them. The NFL indicates that if a game is cancelled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players and cannot be rescheduled within the 18-week timeframe, “neither team’s players will be receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary,” otherwise known as their game check.

Though the NFL has not mandated vaccinations for players or coaches, this financial punishment is likely the biggest incentive for players to get the vaccine yet.

As for the team that did not experience the outbreak, the NFL says it will minimize the burden on them (though still not pay them I guess). Another detail — if a team experiences a COVID-19 outbreak in vaccinated players before a matchup, the league says it will do its best to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both teams. It’s unclear exactly what that means.

“Whether to reschedule a postponed game will be dependent on health and safety reasons at the recommendation of medical experts as well as considerations of stadium availability, schedule integrity, fan convenience, and other appropriate matters,” the memo states.

Find more details below:

And onto the rest of your notes.

  • “Everyone and their mother, including those employed by the Lions, is aware that the current lineup is an unfinished product of an overhaul.” CBS Sports’s Cody Benjamin touches on this and offers three questions for each NFC North team.

  • The ever-animated Jamaal Williams answers some notecard questions with the Lions, like what he’d be doing if he wasn’t playing football.

  • Unrelated to the Lions, but related to NFL broadcasts, I liked this piece from SB Nation’s James Dator on how he believes the Peyton Manning and Eli Manning MNF broadcast could either be really great or “awful beyond belief.”