As the modified Coronavirus guidelines released earlier this week show, the NFL, like the rest of the country, is slowly but steadily returning to normalcy again. This has been made possible thanks to Covid-19 vaccination.
While not all players are happy about this process — the Buffalo Bills’ Cole Beasley and the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Mixon stand out — the fact remains that the league is banking on vaccination. It is actively encouraging its players and personnel to get vaccinated, or alternatively to follow the same guidelines that were in place throughout the 2020 season.
How much progress the New England Patriots have made in this area is not known at this point in time. However, long snapper Joe Cardona recently pointed out that head athletic trainer Jim Whalen has helped create a “safe working environment” at the team’s Gillette Stadium facility and that the team would focus on science rather than misinformation.
“To have an organization as a whole and a locker room that prioritizes science over misinformation or whatever else is out there and presents the facts to us players in a concise manner and addresses concerns regarding vaccination, regarding whatever concerns a player has been really great to be a part of,” Cardona said during a recent media conference call.
“You see guys that have concerns; ask about it; it gets addressed; they get to talk to an expert in the field. Whether a mind changes or not, at least they have the facts presented to them. Our staff, our athletic training staff has been a great resource for everybody.”
The Patriots as a whole have been pro-vaccines ever since they were first introduced earlier this year. They transformed Gillette Stadium into Massachusetts’ first mass-vaccination site, and have seen 610,283 people get their shot before it was closed down earlier this week.
Furthermore, team captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater have starred in a PSA aimed at answering questions about vaccination and addressing vaccine hesitancy especially among People of Color.
As far as the team itself is concerned, head coach Bill Belichick recently noted that his 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,” Belichick said.
“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. 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.”
Cardona also pointed out that the Patriots’ players and personnel would be in a comfortable position when it comes to gaining information about the vaccine.
“Every resource that we have here in New England — the city of Boston, the best epidemiologists, the best doctors in the world — they’re right up the road here at MGH, at Brigham and Women’s, Dana-Farber,” he said. “At every turn, we have the resources and they’re presented to us.”
According to a recent report by Mark Maske of the Washington Post, half the teams in the NFL have seen at least 50 of their players get vaccinated. Three already have more than 70 vaccinated players on their rosters. On Thursday, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints crossed the 85 percent barrier.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are also seeing an increase in vaccinated personnel as Belichick said earlier this month.
“That’s really being handled by the medical, but I know we’ve got quite a few guys,” he said. “I couldn’t really give you a percentage or whatever, but the number’s increasing and we’ll just continue to work through the process.”