The NFL's new COVID-19 rules have big implications for teams with highest, lowest vaccinations rates

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(Getty Images)

The NFL has a new rule for 2021: Get vaccinated or get bent.

The NFL dealt with some COVID issues in 2020, which saw several games rescheduled, but none canceled. This year, the league wants to put a bit more onus on players who refuse to get the coronavirus vaccine heading into 2021.

The NFL announced on Thursday that should a team deal with a coronavirus breakout stemming from unvaccinated players, and if the game cannot be rescheduled within the 18-week season, that team will forfeit the game and cause more issues for both teams involved.

"We do not anticipate adding a '19th week' to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season," the NFL said in the memo.

Also noteworthy is the fact that both the teams — not just the team that causes the outbreak — involved in the canceled matchup will lose game checks. The team will be handed a forfeit loss, while the opposing team will be handed a victory that counts toward the playoffs.

The new league mandates reinforce the league's firm stance on wanting its players to get vaccinated heading into the 2021 season as the coronavirus (and now the Delta variant) continues to make its way through the country's population. 

The NFL cites the CDC and vaccination data as proof of the effectiveness of the vaccine across the country, with hospital rates and deaths among the vaccinated population dramatically decreasing.

NFL team vaccination rates

While vaccination rates for all 32 NFL teams aren't made public, the Colts and Washington Football Team reportedly have two of the lowest rates in the league, with percentages under 50.

Washington defensive lineman Montez Sweat has vocally opposed the vaccination in recent months, despite the team bringing in vaccination experts to explain the benefits of the jab.

Teams that reach 85 percent vaccination rates are allowed more freedom in team facilities, among other benefits.

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