Mere hours after Washington coach Ron Rivera revealed that only half his team was vaccinated (with 2019 first-rounder Montez Sweat suggesting he won’t be inoculated anytime soon), Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold voiced his own concerns Wednesday, admitting to reporters that he’s unsure if he’ll get the vaccine. “I still have to think about all those certain things that go into it,” said the former Jet. “It’s everyone’s choice whether they want to get vaccinated or not.”
It was reported last week that assistant coaches from at least four teams were in danger of losing their “Tier 1” status if they continued to refuse the vaccine. Per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, that would mean not being allowed on the field, in team meetings or even having direct interactions with players. This is not a football-specific issue, either, as vaccine rates have seemingly slowed nationwide, putting in jeopardy President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated by July 4th.
"I'm just staying by myself right now. I don't have a family or anything like that,” said Darnold as transcribed by Panthers beat reporter Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. “Again, there's a ton of different things that go into it. I'm going to evaluate that on my own and make the best decision that I feel like is the best for myself."
Darnold is not alone in his skepticism as Lakers star LeBron James and Bills QB Josh Allen have both dodged vaccine questions in similarly evasive fashion. James’ agent, Rich Paul, told the New Yorker he only expected about 30 percent of NBA players to get vaccinated, though that estimate was much too low (the league cracked the 80-percent threshold weeks ago).
While teams will continue to encourage everyone to get the vaccine (Rivera recently brought in doctors from Harvard to help inform his players), Darnold said he hasn’t felt any pressure from Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who maintains that the decision is still up to each individual player.