With just about seven or eight weeks until the Buffalo Bills are set to open training camp, time is running out for players to become fully vaccinated before the team returns to practices. General manager Brandon Beane has said he wanted the team to get to the league’s vaccination threshold so they could return to normal meeting and preparation patterns.
On Tuesday, Bills head coach Sean McDermott not only shared that he was fully vaccinated, but said he’s worried about the team’s ability to get back to normal in a similar response to Beane.
“I’m concerned about it. I’m being very upfront,” McDermott said about getting back to normal meeting patterns in 2021. “I think that time element comes into play a little bit right now, and I think, a little bit, it’s working maybe against us or against maybe more players getting it.”
Saying he wanted to “educate” rather than “convince”, McDermott was very open that the team wants players vaccinated and a return to traditional practice and meetings inside the facility. That openness was in sharp contrast to the two players who spoke with the media following practice.
Quarterback Josh Allen declined to give his vaccination status or talk about anyone on the team, and said it was up to individual players while also saying the players’ leadership council have collectively talked about the issue. Allen called it a “hot topic” and he was clearly prepared with a response.
“What the right answer is and how to go about it, we’re not sure, and we’re trying to get to a conclusion,” Allen said. “But at the same time, we’re letting everybody make their own personal decision.”
That was echoed by the young leader of the defense, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who spoke after Allen. Edmunds also declined to share his vaccination status.
“We talked about it. I think what it comes down to, guys are at a stage now where it’s an individual decision,” said Edmunds. “So me personally, I wouldn’t want to persuade a guy whether to get it or not. It’s just more so, what they want to do. They have to make a decision for their family, what they think is best for them and make that decision based on what they think.”
The Buffalo Bills had a player miss the entire 2020 season with COVID-related myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart. Tight end Tommy Sweeney missed the first month of the season with a lingering injury before contracting the virus and subsequent side effect. The team has said he will be ready to go in 2021.
Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley took to Twitter two weeks ago to say he wasn’t going to get the vaccine, drawing backlash for arguing with fans. The wife of Jordan Poyer. Rachel Bush, has also come out strongly against the COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates for players and fans in the building. Allen told The Ringer podcast last month that he didn’t have enough information about the vaccine to decide if he should be vaccinated.
The issue is not going away, but without media members in the building, it’s unclear when we will know anything about the level of vaccinations inside the organization. The NFL has mandated the league’s workers around the players are vaccinated, but can’t mandate players receive the vaccine without negotiating with the NFL Players Association.