Lost in the entire discussion and debate regarding whether players will or won’t get the COVID vaccine is the unmistakable link between: (1) getting the vaccine; (2) being available to play; and (3) setting the stage for a season with reduced distractions.
It’s a simple, clear, bright-line bit of logic. Getting the shot(s) means one less thing that can keep a player off the field, one less thing that can make it harder for a football team to have the right connections and camaraderie in the locker room, the meeting rooms, the hotel, wherever. It becomes, in a strange sort of way, a permissible PED because it truly enhances — and enables — the full football experience for a player, and his team.
Enhancing the advantage is the fact that other teams apparently won’t have that, while many players operate under the 2020 protocols of masks and distancing and daily brain-scraping COVID tests.
That’s why it’s surprising that so many NFL teams seem to be struggling with getting players to get the vaccine. Think of the things players blindly will take to ensure that they can play, including most notably Toradol. The short- and long-term risks of having a wonder drug that removes pain so that a player can suit up and go routinely are ignored by players who see the clear connection between getting the shot and getting on the field.
That line isn’t as straight when it comes to the vaccine; the benefits aren’t as obvious as “if you take it, you will play.” Maybe some players need to come to their own conclusions once they understand and appreciate the benefits of getting the vaccine. Maybe some (if not most) coaches have decided to soft-pedal the pros of the vaccine in order to avoid the cons of creating friction or resentment from players who believe the coach is being heavy-handed.
Then there’s the fact that (wait for it) football coaches are heavy-handed. They tell players what to do, and they do it.
Look no farther than Pittsburgh, where coach Mike Tomlin has worked his interpersonal football-coach magic to ensure that guys are getting the shot. And it probably was easy for him to do it.
“It’s good for you, it’s good for the team, go get it.”
Who’s going to ask questions or roll their eyes when Tomlin comes up and says that? Who’s not going to get the shot after getting that kind of direction?
Not many, as Tomlin has said. So go ahead, every team against which the Steelers will be playing this year. Make their day. Make their year. Make their path to the playoffs and the Super Bowl easier because, for them, it will be 2019. For you, it will be shades and shadows of 2020, all season long.