The NFL may not fully be back to normal, but it certainly is moving in the right direction after seeing its 2020 season repeatedly disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Offseason workouts are taking place again, after all, while preseason football and joint training camp practices are also expected to resume this summer.
Steady Covid-19 vaccination progress and a resulting decline in new infections has made this possible.
Within the medical community, vaccination is universally regarded as the path out of the global health crisis. The NFL sees it the same way and has already started to loosen restrictions for those who have gotten their shot. How may players, coaches and other personnel have been vaccinated so far across the league is not known, but teams are in the process of creating awareness and spreading information.
The New England Patriots are no exception, as head coach Bill Belichick pointed out during a media conference call on Thursday. Asked whether or not his team has employed an expert — something the Washington Football Team did — he expressed his confidence in his team’s approach.
“First of all, we’ll comply with whatever the NFL policies and rules are as it relates to all that,” he said. “So, that’s all out of our hands, out of my hands. Every team will deal with that. I don’t think there are teams that have done any more that we have in this area. I feel like our players are informed and have the opportunity to be informed. I’m pretty comfortable with what the organization, Mr. Kraft and our training/medical staff, what we’ve done for everybody here.”
While vaccinated players and coaches are no longer subject to the league’s Covid-19 restrictions — e.g. daily testing, travel restrictions, social distancing, close-contact quarantine, wearing masks at facilities — those who remain unvaccinated for whatever reason still fall under those guidelines.
How the NFL will handle this situation moving forward remains to be seen, but the belief is that a different set of rules will remain in place for unvaccinated personnel. As Belichick pointed out however, the situation as a whole remains a fluid one.
“There’s always new information, there’s always updates. Situations change, sometimes expectedly, sometimes unexpectedly. We’ll always keep everyone informed and make decisions that are best for individuals and for the football team. Whether that would be a specific situation or any others that would be similar to it, that’s how we’ve always done it. I can’t imagine that would ever change,” he said.
“I feel like we’re on top of it, we’re in front of it and we’ll be compliant with whatever rules or guidelines we’re given by the league and, to some degree, the state. But when those two don’t align perfectly, we’re bound by league guidelines.”
The Patriots have had their fare share of Coronavirus scares over the last year. A total of 11 players had to be sent to the newly-created Reserve/Covid-19 list during the regular season, including quarterback Cam Newton, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and guard Shaq Mason.