Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has advocated for his players to get vaccinated against COVID-19 all offseason long, and on Sunday, he shared that his message appears to be paying dividends.
After saying that the Bucs should cross the 85 percent team-wide vaccination threshold by the time final roster cutdowns come around, Arians updated his projection optimistically following the first week of training camp while acknowledging personal choice to receive the shot.
"It's all personal decisions and education. On August 13th, we'll be 92 percent [vaccinated] – close to 100, really," Arians suggested on Sunday. "We have a couple guys who've had it and can't get their vaccine – as soon as they get their shot, two weeks later they'll be good. Pretty much we'll be close to 100 percent, at least 98 percent, for the first game. August 13th, we'll be over 90 percent."
This is fantastic news for Tampa Bay, which foreshadows the ability to prevent coronavirus breakouts throughout the season as well as the ability for players to be tested far less frequently than last season.
The Bucs have a handful of players openly skeptical of the vaccine on the roster, including running back Leonard Fournette and cornerback Antonio Hamilton, who may count toward the small percentage of unvaccinated personnel that Arians acknowledged.
However, Fournette said last week that he will continue to access and educate himself about the injection and could end up receiving it. Fournette was seen without a mask at practice in a video from Buccaneers training camp that was released by the team on Sunday.
Shortly before camp opened, Arians told the Tampa Bay Times that vaccinated players will only be tested for COVID-19 fourteen times this year - while unvaccinated players will take 140 tests, in comparison. He reiterated that players who break COVID-19 protocols while unvaccinated, such as not wearing a mask, will be subject to large fines from the league.
That seemingly won't be much of a problem for the Bucs as they aim to repeat as Super Bowl champions. A 100 percent-vaccinated squad could opt to go mask-free in team activities.
Tampa Bay's first game of the 2021 season is Thursday, September 9 against the Dallas Cowboys.
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