The spotlight is on first-year NFL head coach Urban Meyer, who is facing scrutiny for admitting COVID-19 vaccination status had an impact on how he shaped his final roster in advance of the upcoming regular season.
Meyer and Jacksonville Jaguars General Manager Trent Baalke said this week that vaccination status impacted the cuts they made this past week while making final roster cuts to trim the roster down to the 53-man limit.
Though vaccination status was considered in forming the roster, Meyer said it wasn’t a deciding factor, and production in practice and during the preseason also played into who made the final cut or landed on the Jaguars’ practice squad.
“Everyone was considered," Meyer said. "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.”
In response, the NFL Players Association has reportedly launched an open investigation into the comments. The NFLPA has not had any further comment, simply saying that Meyer’s statements led to their next steps.
This season in the NFL, unvaccinated players put their teams at significant risk, as anyone who tests positive or is classified as a high-risk close contact would miss significantly more time than a vaccinated player.
Teams and players also face fines and potential forfeiture if their unvaccinated status causes them to miss games.
Vaccinated players are tested weekly, and those who test positive are required to be out for 10 days or can return sooner once they receive two negative PCR tests within 24 hours.
Vaccinated players cannot be identified as high-risk close contacts, but if they are exposed to someone who tests positive, they must wear a mask inside the facility and must test daily for five days after the day of exposure.
Unvaccinated players are tested daily, and those who test positive must miss 10 days, and there is then a three-day return-to-play protocol. Unvaccinated players designated as high-risk close contacts must test immediately. If they test negative, they still must miss five days
“Availability is one of the many factors taken into account when making roster decisions. We have vaccinated and unvaccinated players on our roster, and no player was released because of their vaccination status,” the Jaguars said in a statement.
“Ultimately, decisions are based on a player's ability to help the Jaguars win. We educate our players and respect personal decisions as it pertains to the vaccine. We want to keep our players, staff, and families safe as we comply with protocols related to both health and safety and competition on game days."
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