For the second straight season, the NFL and its teams will have to deal with the coronavirus. However, things are a bit different this go-around. The league, country and world now have an immense amount of ammunition to fight against the pandemic, much of which was not widely available during last football season.
Thanks to the round-the-clock work of doctors and scientists, we now have vaccines to combat the virus. This has enabled many things to return to near pre-pandemic levels, such as fans at sporting events, concerts, amusement parks and many other things we dearly missed for the better part of a year. The Seahawks will welcome the 12s back to Lumen Field this fall, mostly thanks to the distribution of vaccines.
The Seahawks as an organization have been the model for their COVID response over the last year and a half. Last year, over 700 players and personnel tested positive for COVID around the league. By virtue of strict protocols and a buy-in from players and coaches, the Seahawks were the only organization to not have a single confirmed positive case.
Now, as the NFL is set to begin a second season since the pandemic descended upon the world, Seattle is yet again one of the leaders and models on how to run an organization through this global crisis.
The NFL asked teams to strive for a threshold of an 85 percent vaccination rate within their organization. The Seahawks are currently at an astounding 99 percent.
“By the time we get everybody processed we will have one guy who isn’t vaccinated,” coach Pete Carroll said in a recent press conference.
The state of Washington, like the Seahawks, has led the way in COVID response among the states in the Union. The current vaccination rate in the state sits at 70 percent among those 12 and older. The state's lone professional football team boasts a rate nearly 30 percent higher than the state rate. And the Seahawks, along with the Steelers, currently lead the NFL in vaccination rate.
Clearly, the culture in Seattle is one that supports the health and safety of its players while also helping educate them on the importance of public health and vaccination. Any team can use forceful language when trying to convince their players to get the shot. It seems Seattle has found a way to convince its players in a positive way.
Carroll is passionate about the health of his players and the fight against this pandemic.
“Personally, I think the [testing] once every 14 days is not enough,” he added. "Things have shifted, and we have to respond. I hear people griping about having to go back to masks but that’s because things have changed. They are just responding to what’s going on and we are doing the same thing.”
Vaccination rates are steadily improving around the league, especially after the NFL came down with harsh penalties and strong wording, essentially punishing teams and players if an outbreak occurs among unvaccinated players and staff.
As they did last year, the Seahawks are creating a competitive advantage thanks to their response to this crisis. There may come a time during this upcoming season where Seattle will be playing a team with a lesser vaccination rate and that team may have an outbreak ahead of their matchup. The Seahawks would then either win by forfeit or play a depleted team.
However, there are much more important things happening in the world than winning or losing a football game. The country should look to the Seahawks as an example of how to come together to fight—and end—this pesky pandemic.