The Jacksonville Jaguars on Wednesday attempted to walk back statements by head coach Urban Meyer, who on Tuesday said he took a player's vaccination status into account when cutting down the team's roster to 53 players.
NFL teams on Tuesday were required to trim their roster sizes from 80 to 53 players ahead of the regular season. In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, reporters asked Meyer whether a player's vaccination status was taken into account when deciding whether a player would remain on the team.
"Everyone was considered," Meyer said, according to Yahoo. "[Vaccination status] was part of the 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."
According to the Associated Press and Pro Football Talk, Meyer's comments led the NFL Player's Association to open an investigation into the Jaguars.
On Wednesday, the team's public relations staff released a statement clarifying how the team went about making decisions for its 53-man roster.
"Availability is one of the many factors taken into account when making roster decisions," the team tweeted. "We have vaccinated and unvaccinated players 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."
Statement from the @Jaguars: pic.twitter.com/H69pKT3art— JaguarsPR (@JaguarsPR) September 1, 2021
Meyer isn't the only one to face rebuke from league officials for his statements on vaccines. In May, ESPN reported that the NFL told Bills GM Brandon Beane that teams could not release players "solely due to vaccination status." Beane had made comments on a local radio program earlier that week indicating teams would be incentivized to cut players who had not been vaccinated.
While the NFL has not mandated players be vaccinated in order to play in 2021, it has instituted strong incentives for teams to encourage players to get their shots.
According to the guidelines agreed upon by team owners and the Player's Association, unvaccinated players will be subject to daily COVID-19 testing, continued mask use in facilities and during training, and off-the-field travel restrictions. Vaccinated players are not required to follow those guidelines.
Vaccinated players who do test positive for COVID-19 are eligible to return to team facilities after consecutive days of negative tests, while unvaccinated players must remain away from facilities for at least 10 days.
Finally, if a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players leads a team to cancel a game that cannot be rescheduled, that team will be forced to forfeit. In addition, players from both teams won't receive game checks from forfeited games.