Report: Several NFL assistant coaches risk losing access to players, field over COVID-19 vaccine refusal

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NFL assistant coaches from at least four teams risk losing direct access to players and the practice field over their refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports.

According to the report, those coaches will lose their Tier 1 status if they don't receive a vaccine by the end of next week. The NFL created the tier system last summer as teams prepared for the 2020 season at the onset of the pandemic. Employees in higher tiers have access to more facilities while lower-tier employees are restricted from areas like locker rooms and playing fields. 

Those teams and coaches were not identified.

The league sent a memo to teams in April establishing an expectation that Tiers 1 and 2 employees will all receive COVID-19 vaccines. 

"Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees (other than players) should be expected to be vaccinated unless they have a bona fide medical or religious ground for not doing so." the memo read. "Any staffer that refuses to be vaccinated without either a religious or medical reason will not be eligible for Tier 1 or 2 status and therefore will not be permitted access to the 'football only' restricted area and may not work directly or in close proximity with players."

A detail of the official National Football League NFL logo is seen painted on the turf as the New York Giants host the Atlanta Falcons during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at MetLife Stadium on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Coaches from at least four teams could be isolated from players after next week. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

That memo was sent April 13. The NFL will start enforcing those rules next week, with coaching holdouts from at least four teams at risk of losing their access. While staff members who declare religious or medical reasons for refusing the vaccines will retain their tier status, the NFL is encouraging teams to consider placing access restrictions on all non-vaccinated staff members, per the report.  

Players are not subject to the same tiers and restrictions and aren't required to be vaccinated. Pelissero reports that vaccinations among players are low compared to staff members, leaving locker rooms subject to ongoing risks of spreading COVID-19.

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