Jacksonville Jaguars say no players were released due to COVID-19 vaccination status

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars released a statement Wednesday morning saying the team didn't release any players on Tuesday because of their vaccination status, one day after head coach Urban Meyer said it was a consideration.

"Availability is one of the many factors taken into account when making roster decisions," the statement read. "We have vaccinated and unvaccinated payers on our roster, and no player was released because of their vaccination status. 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."

A league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that the Jaguars will be among the five teams with the most unvaccinated players.

Meyer said Tuesday a player's vaccination status was one of the things considered when trimming the roster from 80 to 53, not that players were cut only because of their vaccination status. He cited the more stringent COVID-19 protocols imposed on unvaccinated players who test positive or are identified as high-risk close contacts compared with the protocols for vaccinated players.

"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."

The difference in protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players is significant. An unvaccinated player who tests positive or is classified as a high-risk close contact would miss significantly more time than a vaccinated player.

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 separated by 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 and can return on Day 6. If they test positive, they must go through the 10-day quarantine and three-day return-to-play protocol.

Meyer's comments did not go over well with the NFL Players Association. George Atallah, the assistant executive director for external affairs for the NFLPA, said via email that Meyer's statement "have led us to open an investigation."

Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane made similar comments on an appearance on the team-sponsored One Bills Live radio show in May, saying he would cut an unvaccinated player to get the team closer to herd immunity "because it'd be an advantage" for a team to have a normal offseason experience.

The NFL spoke with Beane about his comments and reiterated that there's a rule that prohibits teams from cutting players because of their vaccination status.

Meyer said at the beginning of training camp the team tried to educate players on the vaccine and encouraged them to get vaccinated, but each player was allowed to decide for himself. But Meyer also admitted the protocols for an unvaccinated player who tests positive or is ruled a high-risk close contact could significantly impact the team's chances of winning.