ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the first time this season, the Bills were affected by the league rules for unvaccinated players as four were sent home after being determined a close contact of someone who tested positive on Tuesday.
Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis along with defensive tackles Vernon Butler and Star Lotulelei were sent home after coming in close contact with a vaccinated staff member who tested positive. All four players tested negative but because they are unvaccinated, they have to sit out five days.
“Due to close contact they’ll have to be out five days from when their last contact was. So it’s not necessarily today so there’s a chance we could get a player back maybe two, we’ll see by game day. But they’ll be out up to five days,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said on a zoom call with reporters on Tuesday.
“We’ll definitely cross our fingers the next few days and hope that no one else pops up. That’s the biggest thing to keep from a spread.”
In addition to those four players, the Bills also sent home linebackers Matt Milano and A.J. Klein even though the league did not determine them to be close contacts. The team did this as a precaution and they can return to practice tomorrow.
Butler was at practice today and Beane said that close contact “caught us by surprise” as it was determined after the fact Butler was considered a close contact otherwise he would not have been at practice.
“These are the rules, you know they are what they are. It doesn’t matter whether I agree, disagree or whoever does. These are the rules that currently have been agreed upon by the NFLPA and the league office so we just deal with them. We all understand them and that’s why I said I’m glad it’s the preseason. Hopefully we won’t have a lot of this in the regular season,” Beane said.
The Bills have already made two rounds of cuts on the way to getting down to the 53-man roster. At the start of training camp, Beane said just above 80% of players were vaccinated but after the recent roster moves, it might be a little less than that.
“We’re similar to what we were when I mentioned that low 80’s percent. I don’t have it updated with what we’ve done you know the latest roster moves we’ve done. I don’t know if we’re still above that 80% threshold. It may be slightly below it. We had a push right as camp started to get us over that 80 number and it kind of has leveled off since then,” Beane explained.
This five-day re-entry process only applies to unvaccinated players. For vaccinated players a negative test would have been enough and they would not have been sent home as mandated by the NFL-NFLPA protocol.
Now that the FDA approved the Pfizer Covid vaccine, Beane was asked if that could impact any player’s decision to get the shot if they don’t already have it.
“They’re all pretty well educated. It’s an independent, personal decision and that’s really where it is. It’s not a mandatory thing so as long as it’s not a mandatory thing I think most teams are gonna have a number of players that maybe some are waiting on that,” Beane said.
“I don’t have a specific number of players that said “hey if the FDA approves this I’ll get it or not.” Maybe some guys will look at this and say “hey I don’t wanna deal with it.” I’m not sure all of them will but time will tell.”
Beane also said the staff member who tested positive is doing well and only has mild symptoms but it’s a reminder to be safe than sorry when it comes to how you’re feeling.
“Whether you’re tested everyday or not we’re gonna continue to educate everyone in the building if you sense anything or you feel like you’ve been around someone that you know tested positive let’s play it smart,” Beane said.