In isolation, whether a player does or doesn’t get the COVID-19 vaccination has no bearing on football. When considering the impact of being vaccinated on the football team and/or individual football players, it does.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio addressed on Monday the question of whether he believes all players on the team will get vaccinated.
“I don’t think we’ll get all 90,” Fangio told reporters. “Hopefully we’ll get as many as we can for a couple reasons. Me personally — and I know everybody has personal opinions — I think it’s the right thing to do medically. People disagree with that and that’s OK. I think it’ll have a positive effect on the team, both from an operations standpoint and everybody making the decision with the team in mind. I don’t think we’ll have 90. Hopefully we’ll have a good amount, though.”
With relaxed standards available to those who choose to get vaccinated and, as expected, to teams that have 85 percent of all players vaccinated, the grind of an entire football season becomes a lot more manageable. There’s a freedom to not wearing masks and being tested everyday. And there’s a reduced stress that applies when football players who already have plenty of things to worry about don’t have to worry about the pandemic.
It could create real friction for some teams, with pro- and anti-vaccine contingents squaring off in the locker room as some players refuse to get it and others try to cajole them into doing so. The organizations will want players to be vaccinated, which will add to the potential stress and dysfunction.
The teams that manage to eliminate such issues could be in better position to win games, since they’ll not have the vaccine question creating a potential distraction.
Ultimately, players on the bubble will be risking not making the 53-man roster if they don’t get vaccinated. Although teams are prohibited from tying employment to whether a player has been vaccinated, the practical truth is that, if all other things are equal, the player who has been vaccinated will be regarded as a better player, and in turn more worthy of having a regular-season job.
It will be interesting to then see whether the star players on a team who oppose the vaccine take up the case that non-vaccinated players who were cut shouldn’t have been. All in all, it’s a recipe for trouble for any team that doesn’t handle the situation in a way that minimizes the potential distraction.