NASHVILLE – Ryan Tannehill took one for the team. Before long, he will have to take one more.
The Tennessee Titans quarterback said that he did not intend to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but changed his plans last week when the NFL put in place a strict set of protocols for the 2021 season with regard to players who had not received the shot or shots to mitigate the effects of the virus that has spread throughout the world for more than a year.
“I wouldn’t have gotten the vaccine, if not for the protocols they’re forcing on us,” Tannehill said Wednesday following the Titans’ first training camp practice. “… I’m currently in the process right now. So, that’s where it’s at.
“I think the NFL kind of made clear what they want to happen, and if you don’t fall in line, they’re going to try to make your life kind of miserable with those protocols.”
The NFL updated its protocols Tuesday night with the notice that any player who refuses to submit to a COVID-19 test will be fined $50,000, that unvaccinated players must wear masks on the sideline during practices and games and that the waiting period for a vaccinated player to join a new team was shortened to two days.
Last week the league office informed teams that players would be fined $14,650 for each and every violation of COVID protocols this season. Those protocols include strict social distancing rules within the team facility and during road trips for those players who have not gotten the vaccination.
Additionally, teams are subject to forfeits that would cost players their game checks if teams are unable to field a roster because of a COVID outbreak.
“It is what it is,” Tannehill, who wore a mask as mandated during Wednesday’s workout, said. “I love this game. I love this team. I want to be able to compete and do the things I think are important to build chemistry and win football games.
"So, ultimately that forced my hand to get the vaccination."
The quarterback apparently was one of the last holdouts among the Titans.
Prior to the day’s practice, general manager Jon Robinson said that 90 percent of the 90-man roster (that is 80 or more players) had been vaccinated and that he wanted the NFL franchise to serve as a an example to the community and state regarding the benefits of vaccination.
“The big thing that I told the entire team (Tuesday) night was that this isn’t necessarily about a vaccine,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “This isn’t about masks. This isn’t about social distance. This isn’t about a fine or cameras. This is about us being responsible to each other to keep people safe – to keep our families safe, to keep our team safe, our teammates.
“So, at the end of the day whatever your decision is, we all have to live with, but we have to make sure that we’re not making decisions for ulterior reasons, that we’re doing to keep people safe.”
Ultimately, though, Tannehill felt he had no choice.
He said listened to experts that spoke to players about the benefits and risks of getting vaccinated. None of it convinced him that it is the right thing for him to do personally, but he declined to reveal his specific concerns.
Instead, he took his medicine – quite literally – and set his sights on what is to come.
“I think it’s a personal decision for everybody, Tannehill said. “Everybody has to make the best decision for them and their families. That’s our mindset in this building.
“But they’re trying to force your hand and they have forced a lot of hands by the protocols, which everyone has their own opinion on.”