N.F.L. Vaccine Holdouts Face Training Camp Scrutiny

N.F.L. Vaccine Holdouts Face Training Camp Scrutiny

Though 88.5 percent of all N.F.L. players had received at least one vaccine dose through Friday, some players voiced their hesitance to be inoculated.


By Emmanuel Morgan

When asked by reporters Tuesday if he had received the Covid-19 vaccine, Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner nodded his head and smiled.

“Yes, sir, fully vaccinated,” Buckner said.

When asked the same question, his teammate, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, declined to clearly answer, glancing downward, his response slightly muffled by the mask covering his expression.

“It’s a personal decision,” Hilton said, “so let’s just leave it at that.”

On Monday, Frank Reich, the Colts’ vaccinated head coach, tested positive in a so-called breakthrough infection. He was asymptomatic, but participated in the start of training camp remotely, Chris Ballard, the team’s general manager, said.

As the first week of N.F.L. training camps concluded amid the backdrop of the Delta variant fueling an alarming spike in coronavirus cases nationally, the dichotomy within the Colts’ locker room reflected the discussion among N.F.L. players regarding the vaccine, even as the league offered more education and levied harsher penalties on the unvaccinated.

As of Friday morning, 88.5 percent of all players had received at least one vaccine dose, according to an N.F.L. spokesman, a more than 8 percent jump from last week. Twenty of the 32 teams have more than 90 percent of their rosters vaccinated, while two teams, the Colts and the Washington Football Team, have vaccination rates below 70 percent.

With training camps open, players can now voice their opinions to the broader public, and their actions are more scrutinized with reporters present. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2019 N.F.L. most valuable player, tested positive for the coronavirus this week, his second infection since November. Protocols will require Jackson to miss at least 10 days if he is unvaccinated.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette voiced their hesitancy about the vaccine in July on social media in posts they’ve since deleted.

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