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23 Jul, 2021 14:44

‘It’s making me question my future’: NFL star DeAndre Hopkins hints he might RETIRE after league announces strict vaccine plans

‘It’s making me question my future’: NFL star DeAndre Hopkins hints he might RETIRE after league announces strict vaccine plans

Several big-name NFL superstars have voiced their opposition to league plans to harshly penalize players who may be responsible for Covid-19 outbreaks in their team, which could lead to forfeited games and players not being paid.

Arizona Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins, considered by many to be among the best players in the NFL, was among those who appeared to vociferously oppose league plans announced Thursday which, officials claims, will help safeguard teams and the league itself from Covid-19.

Last year's NFL season was conducted in a haze of coronavirus confusion, with dozens of players testing positive for the virus throughout the course of the season.

That led to one team, the Denver Broncos, being forced to play a game without a recognized quarterback after their starting player and his backups were deemed close contacts to a confirmed case.

Elsewhere in the league, the Cleveland Browns had to contend with the absence of the NFL Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski, in what was their first playoff game in two decades after he was also diagnosed with an asymptomatic case of Covid-19 days out from the crucial elimination game with AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In a bid to ensure that those situations don't repeat themselves, the league announced strict mandates for teams in which unvaccinated players cause outbreaks within their roster which may lead to the postponement or cancellation of a game.

Under the new rules, if a team is judged to be unable to compete due to a Covid-19 outbreak, they will be forced to forfeit the game and the win will be awarded to the opposition.

However, the most controversial element of the plan was that in such an event, players from both teams will not be paid for that game week – meaning that high-profile players could lose well over $1 million if one of their opponents is responsible for a Covid outbreak. 

The measure appears designed to motivate players to take one of the several Covid-19 vaccines which are available amid reports that players from several NFL teams have been reticent to receive the jab.

Thursday evening's announcement sent shockwaves throughout the league, with Hopkins writing in a since-deleted tweet: "Never thought I would say this, but being in a position to hurt my team because I don't want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL."

After deleting that message, he simply tweeted: "Freedom?"

Another high-profile player, Jalen Ramsey, of the Los Angeles Rams, also voiced his opposition in response to a tweet from quarterback coach Quincy Avery, who wrote: "Definitely a bad teammate if you don't get the vax now", with Ramsey indicating that he knows of two people who developed heart problems after taking a vaccine.

Ezekiel Elliott, of the Dallas Cowboys, indicated that he has received his dose of the vaccine but said that the league should not mandate that players must receive it.

"I got the vaccine just because I wanted to put myself in the best situation to be out there for my team week in and week out. But I mean, not everyone feels that strongly or maybe other people still have their view of vaccines. You can't force someone to do something that they don't want to do to their body," he wrote. 

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Others, including Matt Judon of the New England Patriots and Leonard Fournette, of Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also indicated their opposition to the plans – with Judon taking aim at the NFL Players' Association for apparently agreeing to the measure.

However, several players in the NFL have also voiced their support for the vaccine drive in recent days.

Baker Mayfield, quarterback for the Browns, indicated this week that teams who have high vaccination rates will have a "competitive advantage" over their rivals who are hesitant to receive a vaccine.

"It’s a competitive advantage, but it’s also way more than that," said Mayfield. "It’s about safety, just general health and well-being of human life."

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