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NFL sets July 2 opt-out deadline for 2021 season

Now that a majority of NFL players have been vaccinated for COVID-19, the league is changing its rules big time in comparison to a season ago.

In a memo released to players on Wednesday, the league announced that there would be no compensation for players who choose the voluntary opt-out path.

This means players who are not deemed at high-risk. Those in the high-risk category will receive a stipend of $350,000. This is a change from the 2020 season when those not considered high risk got a stipend of $150,000. Here are some more notes.

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NFL opt-out deadline and more information

nfl covid-19 opt outs
Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; A COVID-19 warning sign at the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Those who signed their current contracts before Oct. 1 of 2020 are not eligible to take a voluntary opt-out. This means rookies and 2021 free-agent signings can’t decide to sit out the 2021 season due to concerns over COVID-19.
  • According to the memo, all-opt out decisions are final. Players can’t decide to sit out the season before July 3 and then suddenly want to take to the field once Week 1 comes calling.
  • Breakthrough COVID-19 cases have seen somewhat of a thing around the sports world since vaccines became readily available. While rare, they could impact NFL players. It’s in this that the league will allow players to cash in-game bonus checks even if they were to miss said game due to a breakthrough case.

There’s certainly been some drama surrounding NFL COVID-19 protocols dating back to the viruses’ inception in the United States early last year.

That’s been taken to a whole new level this summer with the league placing an emphasis on players and personnel being vaccinated. Some have pushed back against the idea of separate policies for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, primarily Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley.

All of this comes at a time when the United States has seen a 90% reduction in cases since early January while north of 54% of the eligible American population has released at least one dose of the vaccine.

The hope for the NFL is somewhat of a return to normalcy for training camp and the start of the season come September. That includes stadiums at full capacity and teams being able to go through their work week at near the same level as the 2019 season, pre-pandemic.