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NFL releases new COVID guidelines for vaccinated, unvaccinated players

Several players have expressed concern over getting vaccinated. Stricter protocols are meant to encourage more players to get vaccinated.

The NFL and NFL Players Association have updated COVID-19 protocols to loosen restrictions for fully vaccinated players and to encourage others to get the vaccine.

Unvaccinated players must continue to get daily testing, wear masks and practice physical distancing. They won’t be allowed to eat meals with teammates, can’t participate in media or marketing activities while traveling, aren’t permitted to use the sauna or steam room and may not leave the team hotel or interact with people outside the team while traveling.

Vaccinated players will not have any of those restrictions, according to a memo sent to teams on Wednesday that was obtained by The Associated Press.

According to a tweet from Albert Breer of the Monday Morning Quarterback, throughout training camps and the preseason, anyone unvaccinated who misses a day of testing will have to undergo a five-day "re-entry" testing process, and may not go back into the facility until the fifth day's tests come back negative.

Media access to the press box, field and sidelines, locker room and postgame interview room will be available only to media members who are fully vaccinated.

Several players have expressed concerns about receiving the vaccine. The updated protocols give them more incentive to get it.

Washington pass rusher Montez Sweat said last week he “probably won’t get vaccinated until I got more facts and that type of stuff, but I’m not a fan of it at all.”

Teams have brought in experts to discuss the vaccine with players and staff.

“They’re doing a great job of continuing to educate us and giving us resources and then kind of giving us the option to make that informed decision with where we’re at personally and go from there,” Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said.

In an interview with the Pioneer Press on Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings Coach Mike Zimmer talked about how much, "easier" it will be for players who're vaccinated throughout the 2021 season. Both Zimmer and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach Bruce Arians have encouraged their players to get the vaccine.

 "It's still a personal choice, but I don't see a reason not to be vaccinated," Arians said. "I haven’t spoke to anybody who has resisted. They’ve just been too lazy to get one.”

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