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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.
But in addition to the rules at the NFL level, teams are sure to institute their own rules to make sure players follow the league-mandated protocols. They’re especially likely to do so for unvaccinated players, given the dramatic penalties set to be levied against teams whose unvaccinated players trigger an outbreak on the team.
One of the teams instituting its own rules is the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to the Tampa Bay Times, coach Bruce Arians said this week the team will fine any unvaccinated player $14,000 on the spot for every time he isn’t wearing a mask or is breaking a protocol.
Arians did not specify how many Bucs players are vaccinated, but believes 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.”
As the Bucs look to defend their title, they are taking the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak on the roster very seriously, and making sure that there is not just accountability to the league, but also to the team.
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