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NFL's 2021 Covid policy: Field a team or take an L

Clubs unable to field a team on game day will bear the cost of a postponement and/or take a forfeit if the game can't be played

Hopefully all of this proves unnecessary, but on Thursday the NFL sent a memo detailing its contingency plans in the event a team is caught in a 2020-style contact tracing hell, and it's devastatingly simple. Field a team or take a forfeit. Thursday's memo echoes of that of the SEC, who will not be sympathetic toward teams that find large number of players sidelined by infections and close contacts. 

This year will mark the league's first playing 17 regular season games over 18 weeks, and the league expects to get all 272 games in the allotted time between Sept. 9 and Jan. 9. "As we learned last year, we can play a full season if we maintain a firm commitment to adhering to our health and safety protocols and to making needed adjustments in response to changing conditions."

In the inevitable event that a fully vaccinated person suffers a breakthrough infection, that person would be able to return to action after two negative tests no less than 24 hours apart, so long as they are asymptomatic. Unlike 2020, vaccinated person who come in contact with a covid-positive teammate will not be shepherded into quarantine.

For an unvaccinated person, the protocol is a repeat of 2020: 10 days of isolation and only permitted to return to action once symptoms have subsided. An unvaccinated person deemed a close contact must isolate for a minimum of five days.

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In the event a team does not have enough available bodies to field a team, all burdens of postponement incurred will fall on the "offending" team. If a game cannot be rescheduled, the "offending" team will take a forfeit.

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This being the NFL, neither team's players get paid if and when a game gets axed.

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The NFL found a way to play all 269 regular season and playoff games within the allotted time in a world where none of its players and staff were vaccinated, and now the league reports nearly nearly 100 percent of Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff, as well as 75 percent of players, are vaccinated. So there's every reason in the world to believe the league can go 285-for-285 this year. 

But if not, everyone now knows exactly where the league office stands.