Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters during mandatory minicamp that, from what he understands, his team is on the top around the league in terms of the percentage of the roster that has received a COVID-19 vaccination shot (or shots).
While it is not being required, those who are vaccinated will have substantial benefits versus those who are not, as the latter group will largely be restricted by the same protocols that were in place last year, while vaccinated individuals will be able to operate something quite like how it was before.
Some players weighed in on Thursday in response to the league’s COVID-19 protocols being released, with, for example, wide receiver Diontae Johnson saying that he doesn’t have a problem with anything in there.
“I can only control what I can control”, he said. “It is what it is. Some players will get it by choice or whatnot, some players don’t plan to get vaccinated if they don’t want…If they decide to do that, that’s on them, but other than that, I don’t have a problem with it, because at the end of the day, they’re just trying to keep people safe”.
To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t anybody on the Steelers that has clearly expressed an intention not to get vaccinated, though of course that’s not typically something that one would just volunteer for no particular reason. It is unlikely that any team will have a 100 percent vaccination rate.
But those who are not vaccinated will have a different experience. Their movements on the road will be very restricted during travel. They will have to test every day, rather than every other week. They will have to wear masks. They will have to be socially distant in their activities, including while eating, in the weight room, and elsewhere.
“I wasn’t per se the biggest fan of the vaccine at first”, quarterback Dwayne Haskins said on Thursday, “but, of course, I’ve gotten it, and I’ve been able to just be around teammates and be around each other and be in meetings without having to be social distancing and stuff like that”.
It seems pretty clear that Haskins is the sort of player the league is targeting with the protocols. They may be hesitant, or on the fence, but with the clear advantages that they gain by being vaccinated, they will be pushed in the direction of getting vaccinated, and allowed to operate in a manner akin to normality.
“The biggest thing is doing what’s best for each other”, he added, “what’s best for the team and what’s best for my opportunity here”.
It is a clear benefit for any player, but especially for a player who is competing for a roster spot and is new to the team, to give himself every opportunity to have as much access as possible. Getting vaccinated, this year, is one of the ways for players to do that.