A total of 69 NFL players opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Per an agreement between the NFL Players Association and league owners, "high-risk" players received a $350,000 stipend, while voluntary opt outs received $150,000 that was a salary advance on contracts that tolled to the 2021 campaign.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith explained during a Monday call with recently drafted and signed rookies that the union wants to negotiate the right for players to opt out of the 2021 season, as well:
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said on a call today with rookie players and their agents that the union again will negotiate the right for players to opt out of the 2021 season, per source.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 3, 2021
Dozens of players took the opt-out in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NFL and NFLPA are urging all personnel to receive COVID-19 vaccine shots, but the league is not yet mandating players get vaccinated to participate in upcoming preseason and regular-season matchups. Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker generated headlines last week when he said he's not getting vaccinated.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond is an example of an athlete who has opted out of back-to-back seasons amid the health crisis, and Smith's update suggests at least some NFL players are considering doing the same between now and later this summer. With safe COVID-19 vaccines available and effective, however, owners might request in upcoming talks that all contracts, even those attached to high-risk players, be rolled over to 2022 for anybody who opts out.