Unvaccinated Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley took the podium after the first practice of training camp on Wednesday with an improperly worn mask that did not cover his nose and read a prepared statement attempting to clarify his stance on the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The issue at hand is information is being witheld from players in order for a player to be swayed in a direction he may not be comfortable with," Beasley said. "When dealing with a player's health and safety, there should be complete transparency regarding information that's vital in the decision-making process.
"Without having all the proper information, a player can feel misguided and unsure about a very personal choice. It makes a player feel unprotected and gives concerns about future topics regarding healthy and our ability to make educated decisions.
"... We have to know that we're armed with full knowledge and understanding that those in a position to help us will always do that, based on our individual situations."
Beasley went on to say many young players are reaching out to him every day because they're being told that if they don't get the vaccine, they'll be cut.
"Once unvaxxed players get cut, they're losing a dream they have worked their whole lives for [over] a vaccine that has proven not keep people from contracting COVID, as we've seen," Beasley said. "Every doctor I've gone to with questions begins every sentence with `from what we know now,' which tells me we don't know enough."
What Beasley wouldn't say, of course, is why he has so many doubts about the vaccine, which as of Wednesday approximately 163 million Americans have received.
He also downplayed the supposed Twitter "spat" with teammate Jerry Hughes, who took an opposing viewpoint in the days leading up to camp.
“Me and Jerry are brothers,” Beasley said. "We had a conversation on the phone immediately after. We talked it through and we weren’t mad at each other. We're just talking to each other.
"A lot of things can be taken out of context and in the wrong way in social media because people are going to do what they do with it. Jerry’s one of the guys that I’ll run through a wall for.”
Before practice, general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott held press conferences in which they downplayed the vaccination issue as potentially harmful to their culture.
“We’ve had an uptick of guys that have at least got one shot," Beane said. "So we’ll continue to educate. "At the end of the day, we’re not going to force it on any of our players or any of our staff. That’s a personal decision. And that’s how the organization will handle it going forward."
Beane said that just over 80% of the players have received at least one dose. That's short of the 85% threshold required by the NFL for teams to operate with pre-pandemic freedoms. However, that number can rise as the roster is eventually trimmed to 53 by the start of the season.
Either way, quarterback Josh Allen, who also is believed to have shunned the vaccine, claimed it won't be an issue.
"If guys want to get it, great," he said. "If guys don’t want to get it, great. Nobody looks at the guys who aren’t getting it as a distraction or not wanting to help this team win. Everybody’s in the same boat here. We’re all going with one heartbeat, and that’s helping the Buffalo Bills win football games and ultimately try to win a championship.
“At the end of the day we're professionals. We’re going to do what our job entails and follow the rules and guidelines on both sides."