- Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera is not happy with the low COVID vaccination rate on his roster.
- Rivera’s own health issues and immunodeficient make the situation all the more problematic.
- The NFL has made clear that teams with COVID-19 outbreaks due to non-vaccinated players will suffer significant competitive and financial penalties.
Generally speaking, the National Football League has done a decent job getting teams to ensure their players and staff members are vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the league, nearly all Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff members have been vaccinated while the percentage of players vaccinated has exceeded 85%. Fourteen teams have vaccinated more than 90% of their players. At the other extreme there are still five teams with a vaccination rate under 70%.
NFL medical director Dr. Allen Sills didn’t ‘name names’ or point fingers but one of the teams that has done a poor job getting players vaccinated is the Washington Football Team. Based on comments from head coach Ron Rivera–he said that ‘more than 50%’ of his team’s players have been vaccinated–the WFT could be at the bottom of the NFL vax hierarchy. He’s not the least bit happy with where his team is at and admits ‘We’re not where we want to be’ and that he is ‘beyond frustrated’. Rivera had a bout with skin cancer last season and says he’s immunodeficient. He’s concerned about the resurgence of COVID-19 among the unvaccinated for personal health reasons:
“With the new variant, who knows? When I’m in a group and the group’s not vaccinated or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons because nobody really knows. I have to do that. And I just wish and I hope that our guys can understand that.”
During the 2020 season, Washington experienced very few issues due to the coronavirus. They only had two players test positive–neither of whom were on the 53 man roster. Rivera had repeated issues with quarterback Dwayne Haskins due to his failure to comply with COVID mitigation guidelines. That was one of a number of reasons that Haskins was sent packing. This year has not started well for WFT and on Tuesday offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas was placed on the reserve/COVID list. Rivera is losing patience with his team’s reticence to get vaccinated:
“Now, for whatever reason, we have some reluctance to do that, to get the vaccine. These young men have to make the decision for themselves. Hopefully they can understand how impactful not getting the vaccine is, and you’d like to believe with all the news that’s been out there in terms of the fact that people are being hospitalized, that are dying from COVID right now, are those that aren’t vaccinated.”
Earlier this year, top coronavirus researcher Harvard immunologist Kizzmekia S. Corbett spoke to the team and answered questions. Inexplicably, these players have ignored her guidance in favor of social media lunatics parroting conspiracy theories. On this matter, Rivera was a lot more diplomatic than he should have been:
“A lot of guys have a lot of questions, unfortunately. They haven’t gotten the answers that they should have by now. We need to make sure we can inform them and help them make an educated decision.”
“I’m not going to tell anybody what to do; I’m going to try to understand them and give them some reasons why I think it’ll be a good thing. We’ll see how it goes. I hope we can get to these guys and get them to understand, really, it’s not just for them, but it’s for the people around them, and that’s the thing, hopefully, that will get their attention.”
The NFL has made clear that they’re done playing games with anti-vax malcontents. Commissioner Roger Goodell has warned teams that an outbreak among unvaccinated players could result in forfeiting games. In addition, the teams will be responsible for any financial losses suffered due to the forfeit. This is clearly an issue and Rivera outlined additional ‘micro’ issues related to team preparation and depth:
“We saw what happened, unfortunately, to Denver last year. They had to start a wide receiver at quarterback. You don’t want to be in that situation. We don’t want to be in that situation, so it could be a huge, huge disadvantage. And the hard part, too, that they’ve got to think about is based on the rules — you’re risking not just your paycheck but other people’s paychecks, too, if there’s no game played. I think that’s something that we all have to think about.”
A sense of shared responsibility doesn’t appear to have been much impetus for the WFT roster to this point. Rivera is hoping that changes as it reflects not only the competitive ability of the team but its character–as well as that of the individual players:
“We have to figure that out and we have to understand that. We do — as a football team, as individuals, we have to understand what’s truly at stake in terms of opportunities going forward and we’ll see. We’ll see how it all unfolds, and to some degree this tells us a little about us.”
“It is everybody’s choice, everybody’s decision but you just hope that they all fall in line and understand what’s at stake.”
At some point, Rivera might want to consider giving some of the more obstinate members of his team the Dwayne Haskins treatment and show them the door. Their job is to win football games, not to serve as an advocate for delusional conspiracy theories advocated by lunatics on social media.