An effort by Washington last month to persuade its players to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, by having an expert talk to the team, didn't go anywhere with defensive end Montez Sweat. He said afterward that he's "not a fan" of the vaccine, USA Today reports. Sweat said that because he hasn't caught the disease, "I don't see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID." The pressure to make a different decision just increased. The NFL announced Thursday that any disruption in the schedule next season caused by a COVID outbreak among unvaccinated players could result in forfeits, with players on both teams losing out on their paychecks for the canceled or postponed games. "While there is no question that health conditions have improved from last year, we cannot be complacent or simply assume that we will be able to play without interruption," Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to teams.
On the other hand, the memo says, if a game is postponed because vaccinated players tested positive, per ESPN, the NFL "will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams." The league has encouraged but not mandated vaccinations for players, which would be a union issue. The memo said unvaccinated players also will have to follow stricter protocols this season, including at training camp. Those rules call for daily coronavirus tests and wearing a mask, as well as added travel restrictions. More than 78% of NFL players have had at least one dose of vaccine, per NBC. (At the beginning of last season, the NFL imposed more than $1 million in fines for violating coronavirus restrictions at once.)