The COVID-19 vaccine has proven a surprisingly divisive subject in NFL locker rooms with many players either refusing the shot or still weighing whether or not to get it. Others, including Carolina Panthers star Christian McCaffrey and Jets rookie Zach Wilson have dodged the subject, dismissing questions about their vaccine status as an invasion of privacy. It was announced Friday that 65 percent of NFL players had received at least one dose of the vaccine, which is roughly on par with the national average. However, some coaches, including Washington’s Ron Rivera, have had trouble convincing players to get vaccinated.
“I probably won’t get vaccinated until I got more facts,” said defensive end Montez Sweat, who added that he wasn’t a fan of Washington bringing in a Harvard scientist to inform players about the vaccine. “I haven’t caught COVID yet. I don’t see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID.”
While many players remain skeptical of the vaccine, Vikings veteran Patrick Peterson said he’s not chancing it. “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re just living in a different world,” Peterson shared on Wednesday’s edition of All Things Covered, a podcast he co-hosts with former NFL defensive back Bryant McFadden. “Why put yourself at risk?”
Beyond the obvious health benefits and peace of mind that vaccination can bring (Peterson said he felt no ill effects from either of his shots), the eight-time Pro Bowler feels players are overlooking the convenience factor. “If you do have the shot, you can almost have a free life all over again. To me, I got a greater risk of not passing it onto my family members. I can be normal again. I don’t have to wear the mask. I don’t have to worry about getting tested every day,” said Peterson, touting the vaccine as a necessary step forward as both the NFL and society seek a return to normalcy. “For me, personally, I’d rather just nip all that in the bud.”
“The unvaccinated players are going to have a harder time in the season,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer warned earlier this month in response to three of his players—Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith and Sheldon Richardson—deciding against vaccination. “They’re going to be wearing masks, going to have to social distance, they’ll have daily testing. They won’t be able to go home for the bye week. They won’t be able to go out to dinner with anybody. They have to travel on buses differently and travel on planes differently. A lot of meetings will be virtual.”
McFadden believes the divide between vaccinated and non-vaccinated players could throw a wrench in team chemistry. “It’s almost like you’re not necessarily 100 percent part of the team,” said McFadden, suggesting unvaccinated players will be at a disadvantage. “The team that has the least to worry about regarding COVID will get to the championship.”