Urban Meyer, the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is under investigation by the NFLPA after he admitted that a player’s vaccination status was a key contributor in deciding which players would be cut from the team’s roster.
Meyer’s admission comes in stark contrast to rules outlined by the NFL Players’ Association which state that a player’s decision to not receive a vaccination against Covid-19 cannot be cited as a reason for them being cut from the team.
On Tuesday, several hundred NFL players were notified that they had been cut from the league’s 32 teams around 10 days prior to the start of the 2021 NFL campaign as teams trim their off-season rosters to 53 players.
This can frequently cause headaches among the various coaching staffs as they work to secure a balanced squad of players, often having to make some critical judgment calls as they weigh up the pros and cons of their roster cutdown.
This year, though, there is another consideration: vaccination status.
Despite the NFL’s vaccination rate being upwards of 94 percent among players and 99 percent among staff, there remain a few high profile holdouts like Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson and Buffalo Bills receiver Cole Beasley – and while players like former NFL MVP Jackson are ‘untouchable’ when it comes to roster cut-down day, several other players within the league don’t have the same type of job security.
Why is a player’s vaccination status even an issue? The NFL has outlined a series of harsh penalties for unvaccinated players, including daily Covid-19 testing and not allowing unvaccinated players to mix with their vaccinated teammates in team hotels.
Furthermore, an unvaccinated player found to have caused an outbreak which leads to the cancellation of a game will be made an example of, with the league retaining the right to force the offending team to forfeit the game – as well as withholding payments from BOTH sides involved in the fixture.
There is little denying that these considerations have been a factor in some of the cuts so far this off-season – potentially including Cam Newton’s high-profile canning from New England yesterday – but Meyer has drawn some heat for flat-out admitting that a player’s vaccination status is a factor in these types of decisions.
“Everyone was considered,” Meyer said on Tuesday. “That was part of the [considerations such as] production, ‘let’s start talking about this’, and also is he vaccinated or not?
“Can I say that that was a decision-maker? It was certainly in consideration.“
That did not go over well with the NFLPA. George Atallah, the assistant executive director for external affairs for the group, quickly issued a statement in which he detailed that they had opened an investigation into Meyer’s comments.
Earlier this year, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane came under similar fire for stating that he would cut an unvaccinated player because “it’d be an advantage” to have a roster filled with vaccinated players.
As noted, Bills receiver Cole Beasley is particularly vocal about not taking the vaccine, but his teammate Isaiah McKenzie recently reversed his stance and posted to social media an image of his vaccination card a day after he was fined just short of $15,000 for failing to wear a mask in his training facility.