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NFL warns teams COVID-19 cancellations could mean forfeits, impact playoff standings

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The NFL on Thursday released a memo to all 32 teams laying out expectations for the 2021 season while still battling the coronavirus. The league is coming out strong to try to entice more players and coaches to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the memo, if a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players causes a game to be cancelled, the team impacted by the virus will forfeit the game, impacting their playoff positioning. The loss will not be accounted for in the draft-order standings, however. The league is not planning on adding a 19th week to the schedule to accommodate rescheduling of games.

The team with the outbreak will also 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 to the VTS [visiting team share] pool.” The league also retained the right for the Commissioner to impose additional sanctions on a team should the league feel the outbreak was caused by a failure of personnel to follow proper protocols.

The memo states that, should an outbreak occur among vaccinated players, the league will “attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.”

The Miami Dolphins remain one of the top teams in terms of vaccination rates, being among the first to reach the league’s goal of 85 percent vaccinated.