The state of Florida has become a hotbed for spiking COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. In fact, data released last week indicated the state was responsible for a fifth of all new cases in the entire country. But in Duval County, the Jacksonville Jaguars are working to create their own bubble.
As the Jags wrapped up the first practice of the 2021 training camp, Head Coach Urban Meyer told local media that the club's roster is now over 80% vaccinated.
The NFL has pushed teams to reach a high vaccination threshold, offering up vastly different experiences for players that are vaccinated versus those that are not. Some of those differences include regularity of testing, access, rules on road trips and even fines. Teams that have outbreaks due to unvaccinated players are going to be assessed monetary damages. You can read about all of the differences here.
Wide receiver DJ Chark revealed on Wednesday that he has been vaccinated and appreciates how much easier it makes training camp for him; but he won’t push any teammates that are hesitant.
“Players ask for information; which vaccine that you may have taken or things like that. But you now, one thing I can say about our locker room, everybody adults, and you know it's your decision. So, I personally haven't tried to convince anyone to get it. I just know it’s way easier throughout your day to day process having it.
“But you know if you're willing to take the extra steps that are required if you're unvaccinated, then so be it. Personally, like I said, it's pretty easy for me to walk in, no mask, things like that. But to each his own.”
Putting players in a position that vaccination seems like the only choice has become a hot-button issue; unsurprising given how divisive the issue is amongst citizens everywhere. Meyer revealed he would continue to monitor the Jaguars' vaccination rate, and while the coach says he believes players should be vaccinated, as he is, his primary role as a coach is to educate and inform, not force.
“Well I got vaccinated and I didn't get vaccinated because someone told me to. I don't do that; I got vaccinated because I did a deep dive and educated myself and the doctor that I've known for a long time, said get vaccinated.
“I'm taking the same approach to players and making sure that we educate them, present, and ultimately it is their choice. But how do you make choices in life? You educate them and give them the truth. So I believe they should be vaccinated, but I'm not a doctor but we presented that to them several times.
“We have some very good doctors that will visit with the players that are not experts at it."
The protocols set forth by the league and NFLPA for differences in how vaccinated or unvaccinated players and coaches are administered are just for the pre-season as of now. No protocols have been revealed for the regular season as of yet. Yet as cases continue to spike and the Jacksonville Jaguars work to be a part of a full season in the NFL, Urban Meyer says he and the club will continue to do their part when it comes to players making a choice in whether or not to receive a vaccination. It’s all they can do for now.
“I just respect people's choice. We are doing our best and education’s the key," Meyer said.