NFL players must decide by July 2 if they plan to opt out of playing this season due to COVID-19 concerns, though players who voluntarily opt out will not be paid any stipend this year.
In a memo sent to clubs Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed that only high-risk players will receive a stipend of $350,000. Voluntary opt-outs received a $150,000 stipend in 2020.
To qualify as high risk, a player must have opted out last season and have an effective contract executed before Oct. 1, 2020, or have been newly diagnosed with a CDC-defined higher-risk condition. Rookies wouldn’t be eligible unless they were diagnosed with a high-risk condition after signing a contract.
A total of 67 players opted out last year before vaccines were available.
The contract for any player who opts out will toll at the end of the year, and all provisions of the 2021 contract will become applicable to 2022. For players under contract beyond 2021, all subsequent years will be extended.
The NFL and the players’ union also agreed that fully vaccinated players who have a per-game roster bonus are eligible to receive that bonus even if they miss a game because of a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Teams might not be permitted to challenge if a player’s COVID-19 infection is football-related if the player was fully vaccinated at the time he contracted the virus and the player received an initial negative test upon timely reporting to preseason training camp. Also, a team can’t challenge if a fully vaccinated player tests positive for COVID-19 upon returning from a bye week.