“I think that takes away from some of your ability to lead”
Kirk Cousins is the NFL’s most vocal vaccine-hesitant quarterback. While plenty of other QBs (Lamar Jackson, Carson Wentz and Josh Allen among them) have danced around the vaccine question, Cousins has been clear about his stance: he’s not getting it. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has repeatedly expressed frustration with his team’s relatively low vaccination rate, even bringing in a prominent infectious disease expert to address the team, but Cousins remains unmoved.
Former quarterback Josh McCown, who spent 18 years in the NFL and shares an agent with Cousins, believes Cousins is sending the wrong message to his team by not getting vaccinated.
“Obviously, we have a personal choice, and that’s a freedom that he has,” McCown told Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “But I think in the realm of a team and understanding everything we do about the science and the safety of it, I would just say it would be hard week in and week out for a quarterback to say, ‘Hey, I’m all for my team, but I’m not going to do this except for this.’ ”
To McCown, Cousins’s vaccine refusal inhibits his ability to be a leader by signaling to his teammates that he’s not doing everything in his power to make sure he’s on the field for every game.
“Obviously, he has a firm belief in his systems of beliefs that are leading him to say, ‘I don’t want to vaccinate,’ and that’s his business,” McCown continued. “But given the effect and the impact that it can have on a team, we don’t share the same beliefs on that aspect. And I just think you want to lead the way and do everything that allows you to be effective for your team, and so if you don’t (get vaccinated), I guess you have to throw the mask on and be vigilant about that. But even then I think that takes away from some of your ability to lead.’’
Outspoken skeptics like Cousins draw a disproportionate amount of attention, but it’s important to recognize that the NFL’s overall vaccination numbers are fantastic. The league’s chief medical officer Allen Sills said last week that 93% of players and 99% of staff members have gotten the shot.
Those numbers are what make Cousins’s stubbornness especially frustrating. The overwhelming majority of his colleagues have decided to dramatically reduce their chances of missing games due to the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Not only are the vaccines scientifically proven to reduce the risk of an infection that would sideline a player, but unvaccinated players are also the only ones who can be forced to miss a game without a positive test (due to close contact with a person who tested positive).
If Cousins avoids getting infected this season despite not getting the vaccine and manages to avoid being designated as a close contact (perhaps by sequestering himself in a plexiglass bubble), great. But to McCown’s point, how will his teammates view him if he’s forced to miss one or more games because he’s refused to make a decision that a majority of the league has agreed is the right one?
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