One AFC East team, the Buffalo Bills, are` publicly divided on the topic of COVID-19 vaccinations. Bill Belichick isn’t directly answering whether he is concerned that a similar situation will splinter the New England Patriots.
In an effort to prevent COVID-19 postponements and personnel shortages like it did periodically in 2020, the NFL is levying strict sanctions on teams that break COVID protocols in 2021. All Tier 1 and 2 personnel must be vaccinated, minus players, but if an outbreak amongst unvaccinated players leads to games getting postponed, the league basically is reserving the right to forfeit games and punish offending teams and players.
Belichick, unsurprisingly, dodged a question Tuesday about disagreements over vaccinations working their way into the locker room.
“Yeah again, a lot of those things that you’re mentioning are out of our control, so we’ll deal with the things we can control and go from there,” Belichick told reporters Tuesday.
The Bills situation started because of wide receiver Cole Beasley’s firm disagreement with getting the vaccine. He’s outspoken about it on Twitter, while some of his teammates, like Jerry Hughes, are in favor of getting the shot.
Patriots players don’t seem to be fretting about about the topic potentially infiltrating their locker room and creating a divide.
“One of the things we saw last year when COVID got in our building was it was about us as a team doing what’s best for each other,” safety Devin McCourty told reporters Tuesday. “I’m not really worrying about anything else except for the guys that were in this locker room, I think that’s how this year will be. So whether it’s wristbands, whether it’s conversations of vaccinated, non-vaccinated. Whatever that is, and where we need to be as a team to be comfortable, I think that’s where we’ll do more than anything. Obviously, we have to abide by whatever protocols and rules that we have from a league standpoint. But I think last year really showed us — coaches, players staff — everybody was in this together.”
Added Matthew Slater: “We’re gonna make sure that everyone feels supportive, there are certain decisions that have to be made one way or the other and I think that guys should feel comfortable to make decisions that they feel are best for them and their families, and we’re gonna support them in doing so.
“In terms of league wide and how to scale that out, I don’t know, that’s tough,” Slater continued. “This is a very emotional, tough issue for a lot of people, people that have strong feelings and opinions about the way things should be done, certainly you try to hear out everyone and act accordingly and do your best to do what’s in the best interest of all your players, that’s a tall test for the (players’ association), the leadership’s really gonna have to step up and make sure they do a good job of representing our players in a way that’s fair for everyone.”
Belichick, for what it’s worth, said the Patriots are mostly vaccinated. That includes tight end Devin Asiasi, who reportedly is away from the team indefinitely after testing positive for the virus. Co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich stepped away from the Pats after the NFL revealed its new COVID vaccine guidelines.
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