Several players around the league exercised their right to opt out in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They'll have that option again this year.
NFL players have until 4 p.m. ET next Friday, July 2 to inform their team if they're opting out of the 2021 season, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported. Players deemed "higher risk" for COVID are again entitled to a $350,000 stipend but voluntary opt-outs will not be compensated, Pelissero added. The stipend for voluntary opt-outs was $150,000 last season.
Pelissero also reported that a voluntary opt out is only available for players who executed their contracts prior to Oct. 1, 2020, which disqualifies 2021 rookies. A rookie may opt out if they are classified as "higher risk," but the club still owns his rights. As was the case last year, all opt-out decisions are final.
A total of 67 players opted out of the 2020 season prior to the offseason deadline, including Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung, former Chiefs running back Damien Williams, Giants offensive tackle Nate Solder and New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to more benefits for fully vaccinated players, via a memo obtained by Pelissero. Those include allowing them to collect per-game roster bonuses even if they miss a game because of a "breakthrough case" and clubs not being able to challenge a COVID-19 infection under certain stipulations.
Last week, Pelissero reported that fully vaccinated players will not be required to undergo daily COVID testing or wear face coverings at the team facility, and are not subject to a mandatory five-day isolation should they be exposed to a coronavirus-positive individual.