A player like Myles Garrett was knocked on his rear end by COVID-19 last season. Yes, even when you factor in how athletic he is, how great of shape - COVID-19 was still able to do the All-Pro pass rusher in. Garrett missed a pair of games, then was never himself when returning.
“Athletically, I felt like I had it. Conditioning-wise, I felt like I was like 50%,” Garrett had said about his return a few months back. “I don’t think I’ve ever had to use oxygen so frequently so early into a game,” during the Browns win over the Titans. It’s simple, if COVID-19 can do that to potentially one of the most physically fit players in the NFL, it can do it to anyone. It does not care who you are, what you do for a living, it does not discriminate.
“I hope nothing like that happens to me or anyone else.”
Garrett has of course received his vaccine, as has many other members of the Cleveland Browns. There are a few who have not and some may be okay, others may have to make a tough choice. With new rules that will force a team to forfeit if a game can not be rescheduled due to COVID-19, teams will want their players and coaches vaccined more than ever.
If you are a player on the back end of the roster and not vaccinated, nothing says a team will keep you over a guy who is vaccinated. If the talent gap is similar, a team is undoubtedly going to roll with the guy who is less likely to cause an out break. It is very simple at this point, whether players like that or not is their choice. But, they choose to be a part of the league and those who aren’t vaccinated know what could happen if they are a fringe player.
At the end of the day, the NFL is a business and business decisions have to be made. The league is not going to lose out on any more money due to COVID-19. Losing a ton in 2020 left dents in some pocket books across the NFL, whether some want to believe it or not. The goal is to move upward and onward past these times. Forcing teams to forfeit games if they have to cancel and can’t reschedule is one way to lead franchises to make sure their players are vaccinated. This will force some teams to make tough choices on allowing certain players to stick around.
Players such as Browns’ safety John Johnson lll and Buffalo Bills’ wideout Cole Beasley are amongst those to make it public they are not vaccinated. For example these two players will likely be fine when it comes to not losing their roster spot. They are some of the best in the league at their particular position and teams will take that risk, teams don’t need to take that risk with replaceable players. Late round picks that were recently drafted and tryout players will almost always be vaccinated, one less thing working against them.
Teams around the league aren’t just pointing players toward vaccinations, it is coaches too. The Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots have both parted ways with assistant coaches due to their decisions on the vaccine. Around the league you won’t see the COVID-19 vaccine be forced upon players and coaches, just heavily advised. Those who choose not to get the vaccine have no one to blame for the repercussions that come from not receiving it.
Players can now be fined over $14,000 for violating the COVID-19 policies in place. That wouldn’t really be a problem for larger contract players. But, guys on rookie deals or depth players - it very well could. At the end of the day human life is the most important thing in all of this, far past football and money. If you are vaccinated you are less likely to obtain COVID-19, just something that can’t be changed.
Teams want to hit the 85% threshold of vaccinations and most will surely. Moves will be made to ensure that. Life simply becomes easier for everyone involved with the team at that point. Testing is less strenuous and there is less worry of a positive test. It will be interesting to see how this will play into final roster spots on teams like the Cleveland Browns who’s goal is to win a Super Bowl.