Time for the Buffalo Bills to Crack Down on COVID

Coach Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane must find a way to get the team to 85% vaccination rate one way or another.
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Things are getting out of hand in Orchard Park.

Wide receiver Cole Beasley's Twitter rants concerning unfounded doubts about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines that are saving hundreds of thousands of lives can no longer be tolerated when they come along with failures to follow the NFL's pandemic protocols.

Beasley on Thursday was deemed an egregious, selfish violator, fined more than $14,000 along with an up-and-coming player, Isaiah McKenzie, the Bills may be considering to take Beasley's spot as the lead slot receiver on their offensive juggernaut, for failure to wear a mask at times when required on the premises.

McKenzie is part of a small but significant minority on this team who subscribe to the same mindless theories as Beasley, allowing him to sink at an alarming rate into the quicksand he's jumped into while pulling the entire team down with him in the process.

McKenzie was having an encouraging camp and clearly was the frontrunner to be their top returner following the departure of Andre Roberts before being injured in practice this week. To his credit, he pleaded guilty on Thursday to a number of mask violations, which were detailed in a letter he received from the league that he posted to Twitter.

"They got me," McKenzie Tweeted along with the letter. "@NFL you win!"

But he still doesn't get it. Not by a longshot.

The NFL is not a winner here.

The Bills are simply losers.

They're losers because of him and his thoughts and his actions. And because too many of his teammates either think or act the same way or tolerate those who do.

It's disgraceful, and it cannot be allowed to continue if this winning culture coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have created is to be transformed into a championship culture.

The thoughts and actions of a misinformed minority already have begun to emasculate McDermott.

"It’s tough," he lamented before Thursday's practice. "It’s frustrating, it’s challenging, however you want to say it. But I can’t make the decision for them."

For the otherwise tight and talented Bills, the water is circling the toilet bowl, and McDermott knows it. He just can't say it.

Neither can Beane, who vowed on Tuesday that he won't be "boxed in" again like he was in the spring, when he admitted he would consider cutting unvaccinated players to get within the 85% vaccination threshold required for teams to operate with minimal restrictions in training camp and during the season.

The Bills actually were dealing with a COVID crisis before the fines for McKenzie and Beasley were revealed.

Beasley and three other unvaccinated Bills players — receiver Gabriel Davis and defensive tackles Vernon Butler and Star Lotulelei — were sent home to quarantine for five days after coming in contact with a vaccinated team trainer who had tested positive.

The NFL would have allowed them to continue practicing during those five days had they been vaccinated, provided they test negative each day. For the unvaccinated, there is is no compromise.

Thus the availability of those players for Saturday's final preseason game, in which McDermott finally plans to give his top regulars some playing time, is in doubt.

"There's people's livelihoods at stake in terms of people's jobs," McDermott said. "Being able to count on people is important, so when you're going through a week — if this were a real week — and having the players out that we've had, that makes it harder to win games that way."

And so as the clock ticks toward final cuts, McDermott and Beane are looking at some difficult decisions, because they can't cut every unvaccinated player.

But perhaps most decisions won't be so hard.

After all, both men know what has to be done.

Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.