ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s only the preseason and already the rules for unvaccinated players has impacted the Bills as four players had to quarantine for five days after coming in close contact with a vaccinated staff member who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week.
Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Vernon Butler and Star Lotulelei were deemed close contacts of the positive staff member and the rules for unvaccinated players states they must miss five days even though they all tested negative. If they were vaccinated a negative test would have been enough to continue working at the facility.
Then Isaiah McKenzie was fined $14,650 for not wearing a mask and violating league protocols.
Beasley took to twitter to say he was also fined for the same violation.
On Thursday before practice, head coach Sean McDermott spoke to reporters for the first time since the four players were sent home as well as Beasley and McKenzie were fined.
“I think there’s a personal decision and there’s a competitive decision and so certainly the personal decision is left up to everyone in terms of their beliefs and their view on what’s right. And then the competitive decision is based on what’s best for the for the team, obviously in this case. At the end of the day on a personal end of things people have to make their own decision based on what they feel is right,” McDermott said.
McDermott has been open with his views on getting the vaccine and has said numerous times he is vaccinated.
“In my opinion there is plenty of evidence of why you should get vaccinated. That’s what I did, that’s my own personal beliefs and so like I’ve said before everyone has their own beliefs and I respect those but in my opinion and my beliefs there’s plenty of evidence to get vaccinated,” McDermott said.
Because Beasley and McKenzie now have violated the rules once, they could see increased discipline if it happens again including losing one week’s salary and/or a four-game unpaid suspension.
“It’s unfortunate when players get fined right? That being said these rules have been agreed upon and in place and well communicated for some time. And so it’s important for us that we focus on a.) being safe and healthy, that’s number one and that’s always been number one and then number two is doing our best to stay focused on the goal and the purpose of why we’re here which is to win football games,” McDermott explained.
According to the Washington Post, only four teams are below 89% Covid vaccination rate. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said earlier in the week the Bills are just below 80%.
“When the numbers are the numbers some people are in a better position potentially than we are at this point just looking on the surface of the numbers. That being said again I go back to the personal decision on this thing and I respect our players’ positions. In my personal opinion it’s right to get vaccinated,” McDermott said.
Since this is a “competitive decision” as well as a “personal decision” as McDermott mentioned, it’s reasonable to question if this could come into play when the Bills make roster decisions. But McDermott shut that down.
“That will not be a factor in deciding who stays and who goes.”
The Bills already had two players on the Covid list to start training came with Dion Dawkins and Ike Boettger. Dawkins was open and honest about his battle with the virus that sent him to the hospital for four days. Last season Tommy Sweeney also dealt with lasting effects of Covid after being diagnosed with a heart condition that stems from the virus.
The FDA also approved the Pfizer vaccine and McDermott says that might help push certain unvaccinated players to get it.
“I’ve heard some, let’s call it positive or encouraging conversations with some of those players that are currently unvaccinated and I think quite honestly this has been also to some extent a wake up call for some of the guys as well. We’ll see how much of that really moves the needle, no play on words there but we’ll see.”
McDermott has been very impressive with this topic, in my opinion. He makes his stance known without putting down those who do not agree with it.
“I’m not gonna hide behind the fact that I’m passionate about doing what’s right whether it’s Covid or anything else. I respect people’s positions in a lot of areas. Obviously this is a hot topic, there’s a lot of hot topics right now in our country,” McDermott said.
“Respect is important, doesn’t mean that I’m not passionate about my position and passionate about what I feel is the right thing to do for the greater good of this country and that in my opinion means getting vaccinated.”
He also said there is a chance the four players who had to quarantine for five days could return and play in time for Saturday’s preseason finale against the Packers.