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Bruce Arians and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the latest NFL team to get mixed up in the entire COVID-19 vaccine “drama” around the league.
For coaches in Arians’ situation, returning to some sense of normalcy is one of the best ways to have success leading into the 2021 season. NFL rules indicate that if 85% of a roster and personnel is vaccinated, said team can return pretty much to pre-COVID guidelines. That means more in-person team meetings, functions outside of the practice facility, a lack of restrictions when traveling for road games and a whole heck of a lot more.
As he looks to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a repeat, Arians touched on this topic during a Q&A with the media on Thursday. His take is rather interesting for a number of reasons.
“If you wanna go back to normal, get vaccinated,” Arians said, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. “Eighty-five percent is what we’re shooting for. It’s still a personal choice, but I don’t see a reason not to be vaccinated.”
As the United States attempts to reach heard immunity through vaccines, this has become an odd debate around the country. That’s no different within the confines of the football world. New Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold had this take on getting vaccinated recently.
“There’s a ton of different things that go into it,” Darnold said recently. “I’m gonna evaluate that on my own and make the best decision that I feel is the best for myself.”
That came on the heels of Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera bringing in a COVID-19 vaccine expert to help his players better understand it. This is something that didn’t sit well with edge rusher Montez Sweat.
It’s certainly a personal choice. No one will dispute that. From a pure football perspective, the unwillingness to get a vaccine can’t cost a player a roster spot. However, there’s more nuance to it.
Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and others release players who are not vaccinated?
NFL rules clearly prohibit teams from making a decision solely based on whether a player gets vaccinated. With that said, coaches and other powers that be want to get back to normalcy as soon as possible. That’s especially true given that it will help them prepare for the 2021 NFL season. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk had a good point in covering this detail.
“Then there’s the reality that, even though roster spots technically can’t be decided based on vaccination status, teams will gravitate in close cases toward players who have gotten the shot. As Arians said, it’s a path back to normal. And when the choices are normal and to normal, getting to normal arguably is in the best interests of the team,” Florio noted.
As much as vaccinated and non-vaccinated entities within the locker room might create a rift, this could be an issue when it comes to the NFLPA and the NFL as a whole. If the union perceives that a player was released solely due to being unvaccinated, it will lead to problems. Take that to the bank.
As for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arians noted that they have a mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the team facility on Thursday. He said that the hope is players take advantage of the opportunity.
From a broader national perspective, the most recent update concludes that north of 52% of eligible Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.