Players Shouldn't Expect Much Sympathy for Positive COVID-19 Tests

The sympathy for Cleveland Browns players who test positive for COVID-19 and are unvaccinated will be in short supply. Fans, coaches and teammates are ready to move past dealing with the virus.
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Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was the first and likely will not be the last positive COVID-19 test for the Cleveland Browns this season, but after making sure the rookie was okay, the reactions understandably turned from concern to frustration. If it turns out he was unvaccinated and tested positive, there will be a shift almost immediately to judging a selfish decision that is now hurting his teammates.

We don't know the details of whether JOK was vaccinated or not, but if he was not vaccinated, he could be out as many as 10 days. That would be the situation for any unvaccinated player that were to test positive, including veterans who will report on Tuesday for the start of training camp.

While that might seem preferable to missing games during the season, that might as well be a holdout for JOK. For a rookie, that's a huge hindrance to their development. Sure, JOK is able to do virtual meetings so he can stay tuned in to what's happening, but he won't be on the field for potentially over a week's worth of practices. That's significant.

That's time he's not only unable to get reps, but it's time that other players, namely those competing for the same spot will be getting reps, potentially putting themselves ahead of him. Coaches cannot evaluate him, because they have nothing to judge.

It's selfish. There's no question that the decision to get the vaccine is a personal one and any player has to make the best choice for themselves but that doesn't make it any less selfish. He's not the only one being impacted. The team is now dealing with the fallout from the decision of the individual.

It's no different than when a player commits a personal foul. The entire team has to lose 15 yards.

It's tricky to label it irresponsible, so long as the decision is based in some logic and not just really bad misinformation that doesn't hold up under the smallest amount of scrutiny. His teammates and coaches are certainly going to have opinions on the matter, which could put additional pressure on the player in question.

The Browns as a team have championship level aspirations for this season and this likely amounts to an unforced error. It didn't have to happen.

Last year, there was far more sympathy to players as well as coaches, because they had no recourse to fend off the virus, short of holing themselves up in a bunker alone when they weren't in the facility. Browns center J.C. Tretter did that for part of the season.

Now, between the availability of the vaccine as well as far more information available regarding the virus, there's a sense that this is a step backwards. It's an ugly reminder of what the end of the season for the Browns, including missing a number of players and coaches for games including the playoffs against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

None of this addresses the vaccination rate of the team. If the team is below 85 percent, they cannot simply operate as normal. Players who are unvaccinated will have to do certain things separately. If a player like JOK is among players keeping them below that threshold, it will only increase the scrutiny from teammates as they are once again impacted.

Given the fact the NFL just announced that if a team were forced to forfeit a game, neither team would get paid a game check, this throws that potential reality in their face. Players are not going to stand anyone messing with their money.

Just like fans, players and coaches don't want to go back to COVID-19, except players have far more on the line. They're looking to move forward and put the virus in the past, so they can focus entirely on the season. Unfortunately, at least for the moment, that's not possible and it's an inauspicious way for one of the most anticipated players on the team to begin their career, but hopefully one that he can quickly put behind him.

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