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NFL lays out harsh punishments for missed games due to COVID-19 outbreaks

The team responsible for the outbreak could be forced to forfeit as well as cover the financial loss of the game that was missed.

2021 NFL Draft Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The NFL sent out a memo today of COVID-19, and they’re not messing around.

According to Tom Pelissero, the memo states that the league will force teams to forfeit if they have any outbreaks in 2021.

The memo states:

If a game is rescheduled due to a Covid outbreak among one of the competing teams, the club experiencing the outbreak will be responsible for all additional expenses incurred by the opposing team and will also be required to pay any shortfall between actual and expected payment into the VTS pool.

If a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule, and is cancelled due to a Covid outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the competing teams, that club will forfeit the contest and will be responsible for the lost payment into the VTS pool.

If a game is cancelled and cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule due to a Covid outbreak, neither team’s players will receive their weekly paragraph 5 salary....the Commissioner retains the right to impose additional sanctions, particularly if the Covid outbreak is determined to be the failure by club personnel to follow applicable protocols.

As Kevin Patra summed, “players on both teams will not be paid for the lost contest, and the team responsible for the cancelled game due to unvaccinated players will cover financial losses and be subject to potential discipline from the Commissioner’s office.”

The league is making it very clear that they will not add a 19th week to the schedule. If a team cannot play all 17 games, then they must forfeit.

Last year, games were moved to Tuesdays and Wednesdays in order to accommodate for positive cases. The Broncos were even forced to play without the ability to field a quarterback, a game they lost 31-3.

“Every club is obligated under the Constitution and Bylaws to have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place,” the memo said. “A failure to do so is deemed conduct detrimental. There is no right to postpone a game.”

The NFL wants to make it clear that each team is responsible for keeping cases to a minimum, to the point where they bear the financial burden.

It may not seem fair to force the teams not responsible to forgo their paychecks. However, these are the terms that the NFLPA agreed to last season.

“The NFL and NFLPA also agreed in 2020 that players on both teams wouldn’t be paid for any canceled games. (All 256 were played),” said Pelissero. “But the bold type in today’s memo that the NFL doesn’t anticipate adding a Week 19 to make up games makes clear what’s at stake in 2021.”

The message is loud and clear: keep cases down or face severe punishments.

The hope is that this motivates teams, players, and personnel to stay on top of vaccinations and contact tracing. In the eyes of the league, forfeiture will be no one’s fault except for the team responsible.