The NFL encourages players to get vaccinated but has repeatedly said there are no plans for a broad mandate.
Comments made by Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane this week regarding vaccinations got the league office's attention. Beane was asked if conceivably he might consider cutting an unvaccinated player if it meant the team being able to lift or loosen NFL COVID-19 protocols restricting in-person team meetings.
"Yeah, I would," Beane said, via The Associated Press.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Friday that the NFL spoke with Beane following his comments, according to a source. The league notified Beane a team may not release a player solely due to vaccination status. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Friday on NFL NOW that a player being vaccinated or unvaccinated cannot be part of the determining process at all regarding making a roster.
During a "One Bills Live" broadcast, Beane responded to a hypothetical question about the possibility of cutting a lower-end player on Buffalo's 53-man roster if that would get the team closer to loosening restrictions for teams whose staff and players have been fully vaccinated.
"You guys saw it in the fieldhouse, we had three and four meetings going on, and sometimes you're talking over each other. But it was the only way to pull it off and be socially distant," he added, referring to NFL protocol limitations last season. "So it would be an advantage to cut a player and fall under that umbrella."
In addition to not mandating vaccinations for players, the NFL has not formally announced the 2021 in-season COVID-19 protocols that Beane referenced.
This week, the league did inform teams that they are encouraged to offer vaccinations and "highlight to all players that vaccinations may help players avoid missed practices and games, and therefore may have a competitive impact for the club."
By May 17, all NFL clubs are required to transition back to regular-season COVID-19 protocols, including coaches and other Tier 1, 2 and 3 individuals for teams being "prohibited from gathering outside of the club facility."
Modified COVID-19 protocols are in place for vaccinated players ahead of rookie minicamps, which kick off this weekend.