The serious tweet was the silliest of threats.
It was Arizona’s five-time Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins standing up for his right to be dumb.
“Never thought I would say this, But being in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @nfl.”
The tweet was later deleted but still … Hopkins was saying he doesn’t want to partake in a potentially life-saving medical procedure that would safeguard his family, teammates and community? Fine. His future belongs somewhere else other than in the NFL.
Then there was the tweet from the Rams’ league-best cornerback Jalen Ramsey offering support for foolishness.
“I know 2 people right now who got the vaccine but are covid positive…I’m just saying..I wouldn’t look at a teammate as bad if he don’t get the vax, no pressure 5.”
Wrong again. There should be plenty of pressure. Teammates who don’t get the COVID-19 vaccine aren’t just bad, they’re selfish and misguided and dangerous.
As NFL training camps begin this week, our new national pastime is teetering on becoming a national disgrace.
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The league reports that at least 75% of its players are at least partially vaccinated. This is higher than the 57% vaccination rate of all Americans over the age of 12, but there is such variance that five teams have rates below 70%, and the league lags behind the other major sports.
These numbers are troubling enough that the NFL is taking punitive action with a series of rules revealed last week, and good for them.
Unvaccinated players will be subject to strict protocols that will separate them from the team, with those players facing a $14,650 fine for each time they break those protocols.
If a team suffers a COVID-19 outbreak that causes the cancellation of a game, then the team will not be paid for that game, meaning unvaccinated players could be taking money out of that team’s pockets.
In addition, a vaccine is required for all team staff members, an edict that has already led to two teams parting ways with coaches.
Rick Dennison, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for the NFL’s fifth-ranked running attack, was reportedly bounced. So, too, was Cole Popovich, co-offensive line coach for the New England Patriots.
Don’t feel bad for either guy. It was their choice. Also don’t feel bad for the players, even as Las Vegas running back Jalen Richard is tweeting, “We playing in jail this year.”
No, it’s not jail, it’s a lingering pandemic fueled by the Delta variant, and if they’re not going to protect themselves with the science, then they’re a threat to themselves and a potential health hazard to everyone else.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99.5% of COVID deaths over the last six months occurred in unvaccinated people, and 97% entering hospitals are unvaccinated.
”There’s no scientific reason to avoid getting vaccinated,” said Anne Rimoin, a UCLA epidemiologist.
She noted that the NFL has every right, and every reason, to punish those who make that choice.
“Businesses, and the NFL is a business, are going to have to make important decisions about what their risk threshold is, what they’re willing to tolerate, and unvaccinated people are at increased risk to everyone else,” she said. “This Delta variant has upped the game. People shed so much virus, even with good vaccines, they’re not 100% perfect, so you’ll see unvaccinated infecting the vaccinated.”
In other words, contrary to what some players believe, an unvaccinated teammate is a lousy teammate.
“If you have all these unvaccinated people most likely to get infected, it will impact everybody else on the team,” Rimoin said. “While there’s no ‘I’ in team, there is potential for infection among that team.”
In coming days, as players begin congregating in locker rooms around the country, there will be plenty of chatter about this subject, including locally. A month ago the Chargers were reportedly one of the league’s least vaccinated teams, but quarterback Justin Herbert has been vaccinated and apparently those numbers are improving.
Elsewhere, players such as Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott have acknowledged receiving the vaccine but refused to condemn those who don’t.
“I got the vaccine just because I wanted to put myself in the best situation to be out there for my team week in and week out,” he told reporters. “But I mean, not everyone feels that strongly or maybe other people still have their view of vaccines. You can’t force someone to do something that they don’t want to do to their body.”
But, remember, nobody is forcing anybody to do anything.
“You can have freedom of choice, it doesn’t mean you have freedom from consequences,” said Rimoin.
Then there will be players who vacillate about the vaccine, guys like Tampa Bay’s Leonard Fournette.
Last week he stated, “Vaccine I can’t do it ... ” in a now-deleted tweet. But this weekend, in meeting with reporters, he said he was still considering it.
“I know a lot of people who got the shot and still got the corona,” Fournette said. “Just taking it day-by-day, week-by-week, talking to the doctors, trying to figure out what’s best for myself and the team.”
Fournette said his coach Bruce Arians gave him one request.
“Just don’t get the team sick,” he said.
Then just get the damn shot.
2022 NFL mock draft: Way-too-early projections
1. Houston (100/1) — Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
2. Jacksonville (100/1) — Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge, Oregon
3. Detroit (80/1) — Zach Harrison, Edge, Ohio State
4. Cincinnati (80/1) — Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
5. N.Y. Jets (80/1) — Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame
6. Denver (66/1) — Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina
7. Atlanta (66/1) — Christian Harris, LB, Alabama
Harris had 79 tackles — one behind Dylan Moses for the team lead — 4.5 sacks and an interception as a sophomore. Top needs: RB, Edge, LB
8. N.Y. Giants (66/1) — Drake Jackson, Edge, USC
Jackson can play in space or rush the passer off the edge. In 2019, he was the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Trojans on the defensive line since Everson Griffen in 2007 (and just the second since Tim Ryan in 1986). Top needs: OL, Edge, S
9. Washington (66/1) — Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
10. Philadelphia (50/1) — Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida
Elam took a step back after an impressive freshman campaign in 2019. He'll be hard to pass on as a 6-foot-2 corner with elite ball skills if he can fine-tune his technique and become a more reliable tackler. Top needs: CB, LB, OL
11. N.Y. Giants from Chicago (50/1) — Zion Nelson, OT, Miami
The 6-foot-5, 315 pound Nelson has developed into one of the premier pass blockers in college football. Top needs: OL, Edge, S
12. Carolina (50/1) — Evan Neal, OL, Alabama
The massive Neal — he's 6-foot-7, 360 pounds — played right guard as a freshman for the Crimson Tide before moving to right tackle in 2020. He'll replace first-round pick Alex Leatherwood at left tackle next season. Top needs: OL, LB, S
13. Las Vegas (50/1) — DeMarvin Leal, DT, Texas A&M
14. Arizona (40/1) — Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
Cross is a powerful blocker who can do damage at the second level in the run game with premium athleticism and his target-lock awareness. Top-10 is a possibility if he develops as a pass protector. Top needs: OT, Edge, TE
15. Minnesota (40/1) — Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama
Jobe would have been a day two pick had he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, but he decided to return to Tuscaloosa for a little bit more seasoning. Top needs: CB, S, WR
16. New England (30/1) — Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
The Mission Hills product shunned millions of dollars to come back for his senior season in Columbus and will likely be a top-three prospect at the position in 2022. Top needs: WR, CB, OL
17. Pittsburgh (30/1) — JT Daniels, QB, Georgia
18. L.A. Chargers (30/1) — Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson
19. Tennessee (25/1) — Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee
Mays has the talent and size (6-6, 325) to play all five positions on the offensive line. He's likely the most refined blocker in college football. Top needs: WR, LB, OL
20. Dallas (25/1) — Aidan Hutchinson, Edge, Michigan
Hutchinson suffered season-ending ankle surgery in 2020, but he was disruptive as a sophomore in 2019. He produced 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, six pass deflections and two forced fumbles. Top needs: Edge, OL, S
21. Cleveland (25/1) — Xavier Thomas, Edge, Clemson
This projection is based on Thomas' special talent, but he has to stay healthy and develop consistency. Top needs: Edge, WR, DT
22. Philadelphia from Miami (25/1) — Nik Bonitto, LB, Oklahoma
23. N.Y. Jets from Seattle (22/1) — Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
Walker would have heard his name called had he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft, but his current developmental trajectory puts him as one of the first offensive lineman off the board in 2022. Top needs: CB, TE, S
24. Indianapolis (20/1) — Jon Metchie, WR, Alabama
Metchie could be the fifth Alabama wide receiver selected in the first round in three years. He had 916 yards on 55 receptions and six touchdowns in an offense dominated by Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris. He'll be Bryce Young's clear-cut number one target in the fall. Top needs: OT, WR, CB
25. New Orleans (18/1) — Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia
Davis would've likely been the first defensive tackle selected this year had he left school — Christian Barmore was selected by the Patriots in the second round with the 38th overall pick. Top needs: WR, DT, QB
26. Miami from San Francisco (14/1) — Breece Hall, RB, Iowa State
27. Baltimore (12/1) — Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Linderbaum was recruited as a defensive lineman, but switched to the offensive line during bowl prep of his freshman season and has never looked back. He heads into the fall as the top center in college football. Top needs: OT, DL, C
28. Buffalo (12/1) — Sevyn Banks, CB, Ohio State
Every starting cornerback for the Buckeyes since 2013 have been drafted — seven in the first round. Banks has the physical traits and skillset to keep the party going. Top needs: CB, LB, WR
29. Detroit from L.A. Rams (12/1) — Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
30. Tampa Bay (10/1) — George Karlaftis, Edge, Purdue
The pandemic limited Karlaftis to only three games last fall (he still had two sacks), but he was an AP Freshman All-American in 2019 after producing 7.5 sacks with 17 tackles for loss as a true freshman. Top needs: DL, WR, CB
31. Green Bay (9/1) — Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma
Winfrey's quickness makes him a disruptive force on the interior. He'll be the anchor of a potentially dominant Sooners defense this season. Top needs: LB, WR, DL