Head coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team opened up training camp earlier this week. For the defending NFC East champions, the hope is that they can build off the success we saw in D.C. last season.
As with the rest of the NFL world, the backdrop here is a drama surrounding individuals who have opted not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. For Rivera, this is especially important given that he’s coming off a battle with cancer and is immune deficient. Rivera touched on that in talking with reporters on Tuesday.
“I’m truly frustrated, I’m beyond frustrated,” the head coach said. “I’m immune deficient, and with this new variant, who knows.”
Rivera, 59, is talking about the new Delta variant that has led to an uptick in cases among the unvaccinated in the United States and the rest of the world. It’s more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19 and puts him at a high risk given his health history.
“Each individual has to make the decision for themselves, but hopefully the can understand just how impactful not getting the vaccine is and you’d like to believe that, with all the news that’s been out there, in terms of people that are being hospitalized and dying from COVID right now, are those that are vaccinated.”
It does seem that Rivera misspoke to a degree in the latter part of his comments. A vast majority of those hospitalized and who have died from COVID in recent months are not vaccinated. As an example, 99.5% of the deaths from the virus in Texas since February are represented by the unvaccinated.
Washington Football Team vaccination rate
As of the start of training camp, only 60% of Washington’s 90-man roster have been vaccinated. That’s among the lowest number in the NFL and well below the 85% threshold for teams to be able to avoid the NFL COVID-19 protocols.
There’s also a potential working disadvantage when it comes to teams who have low vaccination rates. The NFL just recently announced that teams will have to forfeit games if they are unable to play due to an outbreak of the virus among those who are not vaccinated.
For a squad like the Washington Football Team with legitimate playoff aspirations, that could lead to competitive balance issues on the field once Week 1 comes calling against the Los Angeles Chargers.
From a more practical and important standpoint, immune deficient individuals like Rivera are put in an incredibly tricky situation. Regardless of vaccination status, they are at a much higher risk of developing serious symptoms and dying from COVID-19.
All of this comes with major divisions taking place around the NFL between those who have publicly supported vaccinations and others who continue to push back against getting the shots.
It’s going to be a major storyline for the remainder of training camp and once the regular season gets going. That’s magnified by the opinionated takes we’ve seen from players around the NFL on social media. This will be no different with the Washington Football Team.