The NFL opened minicamp this week and with it came more COVID protocols. The main difference between this season and last is that if teams have 85 percent of the players and coaches vaccinated, they don't need those protocols. Get vaccinated and you can go back to the old, pre-pandemic normal. It is that simple.
Which of course means it is not simple. Teams are finding hesitant players as America is finding hesitant citizens. Bombarded with some combination of fake news and information illiteracy, we're still fighting a battle against a deadly virus with a disturbingly large number of people siding with the deadly virus.
We have the vaccines that can end this and they are readily available to everyone for free. Get your vaccine, get back to normal. Yet some people (including players) are not convinced. Sam Darnold has not yet been vaccinated because he is "still evaluating the situation."
Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team brought in a vaccine expert to speak to the players. Defensive end Montez Sweat was not a fan, saying he wanted to get more facts.
What could possibly be left to evaluate and discuss? The vaccine will protect you, your family and your teammates. Some teams, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, don't want to hear it. The Bucs are having a vaccine drive for players and families and coach Bruce Arians made it very clear, "If you want to go back to normal, get vaccinated."
This will almost certainly be turned into a right wing talking point. Arians, who is trying to do his job and keep his team safe, will be called a vaccine bully or some other inane term.
This is not just a football problem. It's an American problem and it touches every sport. The NHL had a dustup in April when Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner accused the league of forcing players to get vaccinated and lying to them. Just two-thirds of MLB teams have been able to reach the magical 85 percent vaccination threshold. In the NBA LeBron James was coy about whether or not he had been vaccinated, calling it "family talk," but he was not put into league protocols after he was out with Drake and Michael B. Jordan during the playoffs.
None of that will get as much attention as what the NFL is going to get this offseason as teams struggle to get people vaccinated. Every person who comes out "just asking questions" or unwilling to answer other questions will generate a headline. Hopefully teams can get through to these guys and that in turn will help get through to the general public.