GREEN BAY — The National Football League is imposing tougher COVID-19 protocols and penalties for the upcoming season. The NFL is not requiring players to be vaccinated, but those who choose not to will have to practice and play under a different set of restrictions.
NFL teams are required to have 85 percent of the players vaccinated to be able to loosen COVID-19 protocols. The Green Bay Packers have yet to share where they stand with reaching that threshold, but one thing is certain: unvaccinated players who break guidelines will face major fines.
When the Green Bay Packers’ training camp kicks off on Wednesday, the NFL’s new COVID-19 protocols will essentially create two sets of players on the same team based on their vaccination status.
Players who are vaccinated face almost no guidelines. Unvaccinated players face daily testing, masks and social distancing requirements inside team facilities, and 10-day quarantines for those who test positive, just to name a few.
The league said any unvaccinated player who breaks protocols can be fined $14,650 each time. Packers fan Jamarius Moseby thinks it makes sense to have two sets of rules with so much money on the line.
"If it's something that the organization or the league or the team wants you to do specifically, why not do it? Because at the end of the day, that's how you get paid,” he said.
The harshest penalty outlined by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says if a regular season cannot be rescheduled due to an outbreak among unvaccinated players, that team will be required to forfeit, take a loss on their record, and their game checks will be withheld.
“People have been waiting so long to go back to normal and enjoy the games, and if they have to miss one because of that, I think fans are not going to be happy,” said Packers fan Cheryl Habush.
During a news conference Monday, Packers CEO Mark Murphy declined to share how many Packers players are fully vaccinated.
“I would say we have a ways to go and we’re working on it,” Murphy said.
According to NFL insiders, at least 14 teams have 85 percent of their players vaccinated, which clears the way for fewer protocols.
“It’s really designed to incentivize players to get vaccinated,” Murphy said.
ESPN reports more than 70 percent of NFL players are at least partially vaccinated.
"I think what the NFL is saying is, ‘you know what, for those we have the most control over, whether it's the team's support staff, we want those folks vaccinated. We probably can't tell the players that they have to be vaccinated, but if a player's going to choose not to be vaccinated, then it's partly on them then to absorb the consequences of that decision,’” said UW Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof.
With the Delta variant causing concern about another surge in cases among the unvaccinated, Dr. Pothof says the time has come for businesses like the NFL to do what they think is best to ensure revenue isn’t lost.
"I think a lot of people would like to say, ‘well you're just trying to make it hard on the players, just trying to stick it to them.' It really probably has less to do with that and more to do with they're trying to run a successful business, and if we don't have folks who are vaccinated, we can't run successful businesses,” Dr. Pothof said.
When it comes to fans in the stands at Lambeau Field this fall, Murphy said the organization is in constant communication with local health officials, but plans remain to be at full capacity.