"I'm the specialist."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians joked on Thursday that he serves as the team's advisor on COVID-19 vaccinations, after news broke on Wednesday that the Washington Football Team had brought in an expert to inform players on the benefits of getting the shot.
Arians has long been a proponent of the COVID-19 vaccination and received his injection by this past February. Now, in preparation for the upcoming season in which Tampa Bay aims to repeat as Super Bowl champions, Arians has sent a clear message to the Bucs about doing the same.
"Well, if you want to go back to normal, get vaccinated," Arians said on Thursday. "85 percent is what we're shooting for."
Arians shared that the team is conducting a vaccination drive for players and their families at the Bucs' facility after the final day of mandatory minicamp, which he hopes will lead to a large turnout. Arians didn't say which shots are being provided, but on the current schedule, players who receive the first of two doses on Thursday should be fully vaccinated by the time training camp comes around in late July.
“There’s gonna be a long line over there right now," Arians said, without directly acknowledging the Buccaneers' current vaccination rate. "We were pretty short up until now. Hopefully, we have a pretty good line.”
Vaccine hesitation has been a trending topic across the NFL as the league attempts a return to normalcy. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the league pivoted to virtual activities and a drastically altered offseason schedule a year ago that it is shifting away from with injections now available for everyone.
After Washington hosted an immunologist on Wednesday, edge rusher Montez Sweat was outspoken with his decision to not take the vaccine and instead plans to reactively treat COVID-19 should he ever catch the virus. Although many players won't vocalize Sweat's thoughts, he is far from the only player who has opted against receiving a shot up until this point.
Arians stated that, ultimately, the decision to get vaccinated lies in the hands of each individual. That won't stop the head coach from advising his team that immunization is the best course of action to avoid COVID-19 implications when the 2021 season gets underway.
"Everybody is tired of meeting out here and eating outside and doing all of those things that we had to do last year," Arians said. "So, it's still a personal choice but I don't see a reason not to be vaccinated."