COVID is going to play a role in the 2021 season. The NFL says it won’t reschedule games this year, perhaps contributing to more key individual players missing games. They aren’t handing mulligans this year when teams have a few players who test positive.
The Cowboys played last night without Zack Martin,, who might be the best guard in the league. The Jets on Sunday will be missing Jamison Crowder, who might have been their 2nd-leading receiver in that game. And we’re just getting started. Because of the way the league has structured its COVID rules, the risk of missing games is higher for unvaccinated players. Most notably, guys like Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen (pictured) and Cole Beasley. But there might be more games missed by vaccinated players (given that there are a lot more of them). Reports indicate, for example, that Martin is vaccinated, and he’s looking like the best of the missing players for Week 1.
The NFL has put together an 88-page manual outlining all of its COVID protocols. It’s long, and it’s written in a legalese style, but it’s there, you should want to look in more detail at specific scenarios. Big picture: if a player isn’t vaccinated, it’s a lot more likely he’ll need to miss some time at some point.
The league has set up its rules to encourage players to get vaccinated. Most notably, unvaccinated players must be tested every day and are sidelined for five days if they come within close contact of a person who tested positive. And those players are required to wear masks of they’re not active players at practice or in games.
Players who are fully vaccinated get tested only once every two weeks, with no mask requirements, and they can not be sidelined for contacting reasons.
If a vaccinated player tests positive, he can return once he’s symptom-free and then submits two consecutive negative tests that are 24 hours apart. If an unvaccinated player tests positive, he must sit out 10 days in addition to getting symptom-free and passing the two tests.
For our purposes, we’re most interested in the skill-position players. So we’ve been taking note of those guys when see them in news stories or releases by the team. Some players have made comments about their vaccination status. Others have been seen wearing masks at practices and games (not proof that a player is unvaccinated, but evidence that he’s probably in that group). And when a player spends five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, it’s almost always because of contacting with a positive person (vaccinated players don’t get placed on the list for contacting reasons, but unvaccinated players do).
Neither the league nor individual teams have released an official list showing which players are vaccinated. There no doubt are some (perhaps many) key players who are unvaccinated that we’re not aware of. And similarly, players who were unvaccinated in July could potentially be vaccinated now. But below is our team-by-team list of the notable COVID-risk players.
James Conner spent five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in mid-August (he likely was not vaccinated at that time).
DeAndre Hopkins railed against the COVID protocols in July, but he appears to be vaccinated. When he was watching the first preseason game from the sideline, Hopkins (and teammate A.J. Green) weren’t wearing masks; NFL rules spell out that unvaccinated players in street clothes at games need to wear masks.
The Falcons in mid-August announced they were the first team to get their entire roster 100 percent vaccinated.
Lamar Jackson spent 10 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late July and early August. He’s contracted COVID-19 twice in the last year, missing a game in 2020. In early August, he said he’d looked into the pros and cons of getting vaccinated, but that it was a personal decision. Doesn’t sound like he’ll be getting vaccinated anytime soon. At their last preseason game, he was on the sidelines wearing a mask (a sign that he’s still unvaccinated).
Gus Edwards spent 10 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late July and early August. (Edwards is now likely out for the year with a knee injury.)
Cole Beasley has been the most vocal critic of COVID protocols, indicating he won’t be getting vaccinated. He spent five days the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late August because of a contacting issue.
Josh Allen in June said he wasn’t vaccinated but would look into it (as with Lamar Jackson, doesn’t seem like he’s interested in getting vaccinated).
Gabriel Davis spent five days the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late August because of contacting. He was not vaccinated at that time.
Isaiah McKenzie was fined $14,650 by the league for not wearing a mask at times inside the team’s facility on Aug. 25. He got vaccinated a few days later.
Christian McCaffrey in June declined to say whether he was vaccinated. But McCaffrey was on the sidelines of the preseason game against the Steelers, in street clothes and not wearing a mask (an indication that he’s now vaccinated).
Sam Darnold in June declined to say whether he was vaccinated but in July said he would be vaccinated before the start of camp. A Charlotte newspaper reports that he’s now vaccinated.
Jimmy Graham in July said he was vaccinated but that he didn’t want to be – that he felt bullied into getting the vaccine because of the league’s protocols.
Allen Robinson in June said he was undecided if he would get the vaccine, that he was still researching the issue.
Andy Dalton was on the sidelines at the final preseason game, in street clothes and not wearing a mask (an indication that he’s vaccinated).
Joe Mixon in mid-June tweeted that he didn’t like that the NFLPA had agreed to the league’s COVID protocols, but Mixon didn’t say anything about his vaccination status.
CeeDee Lamb spent 10 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive on Aug. 23. The length of the stay makes it seem that Lamb is unvaccinated, but The Dallas Morning News reported that Lamb has been vaccinated. (So either that report was inaccurate, or Lamb needed 10 days to get symptom-free and pass the necessary tests.)
Ezekiel Elliott in July said he’s vaccinated. He contracted COVID-19 last summer.
Aaron Rodgers says he’s vaccinated.
Along with the Vikings and Bills, the Colts are believed to be one of the teams with the most unvaccinated players. One of the beat writers says it’s his belief that half of the team’s starters on offense aren’t vaccinated.
Carson Wentz isn’t vaccinated but has declined to discuss the issue, calling it a personal choice. He spent five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list for contacting reasons, getting activated on Sept. 2.
Zach Pascal went on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Aug. 30. That means he’s either unvaccinated (contacting) or tested positive.
DJ Chark was on the sidelines in street clothes for the game against New Orleans. He wasn’t wearing a mask (evidence that he’s vaccinated).
A Las Vegas newspaper in early September reported that the Raiders have reached 100 percent for player vaccinations, the third such team.
Daniel Carlson spent over two weeks on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, getting activated on Aug. 17.
Jalen Richard spent five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, getting activated in early August (he was not vaccinated at that time).
Tutu Atwell spent 10 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before being activated in early August.
Mike Gesicki spent 10 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in early August. Two of Miami’s other tight ends, Cethan Carter and Adam Shaheen went on the list at the same time as Gesicki but came off after five days, indicating they were shelved by contacting rules (and thus, weren’t vaccinated at that time). Wide receiver Preston Williams also spent five days on the list at about the same time (he likely was part of that group).
Tua Tagovailoa was on the sidelines at the final preseason game, in street clothes and not wearing a mask (an indication that he’s vaccinated).
Adam Shaheen says he won’t be getting vaccinated. He was played on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in August for contacting reasons and landed on the list again on Sept. 6.
Kirk Cousins says he’s not vaccinated and has indicated he won’t be getting vaccinated. Cousins spent five days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in early August for contacting reasons.
Adam Thielen in June said he was not vaccinated. During the preseason games, he was on the sideline wearing a mask (indicating he’s still not vaccinated).
Dalvin Cook was wearing a mask while he was on the sidelines during the Colts game. So was his backup Alexander Mattison. This likely means that they’re both not vaccinated. Mattison’s status is particularly notable, because should Cook be ruled out by a COVID issue at some point – with either a positive test or as a close contact – Mattison easily could be shelved as well for contacting reasons.
Justin Jefferson was standing on the sideline of the Colts game, surrounded by teammates wearing masks. Jefferson wasn’t playing in this game and wasn’t wearing a mask – evidence that he’s vaccinated.
Kellen Mond spent 10 days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in early August after testing positive.
Cam Newton spent time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late August after missing a daily test (meaning he’s not vaccinated). The Patriots released him on August 31. If Newton signs with a new team, it would require a five-day isolating period before he would be able to join them for practices.
Mac Jones has declined to say whether he’s vaccinated, but he hasn’t been seen wearing a mask (the assumption of observers is that Jones is vaccinated).
Alvin Kamara was on the sidelines in street clothes for the game against Jacksonville. He wasn’t wearing a mask (an indication he’s vaccinated).
Wil Lutz was on the sidelines in street clothes for the game against Jacksonville. He wasn’t wearing a mask (an indication he’s vaccinated).
Kadarius Toney tested positive in July, spending time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in July (he likely was not vaccinated at that time).
Zach Wilson was on the sidelines at the final preseason game, in street clothes and not wearing a mask (an indication he’s vaccinated).
Jamison Crowder tested positive in early September. He’s expected to miss New York’s Week 1 game.
Jalen Hurts was on the sidelines at the final preseason game, in street clothes and not wearing a mask (an indication he’s vaccinated).
Najee Harris got vaccinated during training camp, according to an article posted at PennLive.com.
Jauan Jennings spent time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before being activated in early August (he likely was not vaccinated at that time). Jennings made the team’s 53-man roster but doesn’t seem likely to be one of their top four wide receivers when everyone’s healthy.
Rashaad Penny was wearing a mask at practice in mid-August, a sign that he was not vaccinated at that time.
Bruce Arians says Tampa Bay’s entire roster is fully vaccinated.
Ryan Succop tested positive in late August, landing on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. He returned and played in Week 1.
Tom Brady says he contracted COVID-19 in February.
Coach Mike Vrabel tested positive on Aug. 22, spending over a week away from the team.
Ryan Tannehill tested positive and was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Aug. 26. He is vaccinated. He’s been activated and will play in Week 1.
Running back Jeremy McNichols was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late August. He returned in early Sept.
Tight end Geoff Swaim was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list in late August. He returned in early Sept.
Curtis Samuel spent time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list before being activated in early August (he likely was not vaccinated at that time).