In May, Buffalo Bills GM Brandon Beane alluded to cutting a player who chose to not receive the COVID vaccine, calling it an “advantage.”
“We’re laughing, but these meetings [last season] were not as productive as before,” Beane said. “You guys saw it in the field house — sometimes we’d have three to four meetings going on, and sometimes you’re talking over each other. But it was the only way to pull it off and be socially distanced. So it would be an advantage to cut a player and fall under that umbrella.”
For his comment, Beane received a call from the league in which it was reiterated that a team may not release a player solely because of their vaccination status.
This week, two NFL coaches have broached the subject, and they’re going about it in vastly different ways.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer — in his first year coaching at the NFL level — may have placed himself in hot water with his approach.
On Tuesday, Meyer told reporters that a player’s vaccination was considered during final roster cuts.
“Everyone was considered,” Meyer said. “That was part of the production, let’s start talking about this and also, ‘Is he vaccinated or not?’ Can I say that that was a decision-maker? It was certainly in consideration.”
The answer to Meyer’s question is murky. While a player cannot be cut solely due to their vaccination status, Meyer said that it was a “consideration.” Vaccines are not required for players, though they are strongly encouraged. The NFL Players Association has launched an investigation after Meyer’s comments and confirmed in an email to The Associated Press.
On Wednesday, the Jaguars released a statement saying that no player was released due to their vaccination status.
“Availability is one of the many factors taken into account when making roster decisions,” the statement read. “We have vaccinated and unvaccinated payers on our roster and no player was released because of their vaccination status. Ultimately, decisions are based on a player’s ability to help the Jaguars win. We educate our players and respect personal decisions as it pertains to the vaccine. We want to keep our players, staff, and families safe as we comply with protocols related to both health and safety and competition on game days.”
Then there is New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
The six-time Super Bowl champion released veteran quarterback Cam Newton on Tuesday, with many speculating that Newton’s vaccination status played a role in the decision. Last week, Newton was forced to spend five days away from the team facility after a “misunderstanding” of the NFL’s COVID testing policy. Newton has declined to say publicly whether he is vaccinated, but the nature of his absence points to him being unvaccinated.
Per USA Today, “The regimen of daily testing means that Newton isn’t vaccinated for COVID-19 given only unvaccinated players are subject to the five-day reentry process.”
Belichick squashed that rumor Wednesday morning and gave reporters something to think about at the same time.
“No,” Belichick said when asked if Newton’s vaccination status had anything to do with him being released. “You guys keep talking about that, and I would just point out — I don’t know what the number is — you guys can look it up … the number of players and coaches and staff members that have been affected by COVID in this training camp who have been vaccinated, is a pretty high number. So, I wouldn’t lose sight of that.”
The NFL season kicks off Thursday, September 9 when the Dallas Cowboys play the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Bucs. New England opens their season Sunday, September 12, against the Miami Dolphins and the Jaguars open their season on the same day against the Houston Texans.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.
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