After a year full of following the NFL and NFLPA's COVID-19 protocols, daily testing, quarantining and so much more, we all hoped we could put the protocols in the past for the 2021 season. Unfortunately, that won't be the case this season. With the virus still impacting many lives, COVID-19 protocols will be in place for the second-straight season to make sure player safety remains a top priority.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane announced that just over 80 percent of the team has had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccination. The team needs to meet the NFL's 85% vaccination threshold in order to relax certain protocols.
Wide receiver Cole Beasley has not been shy on social media regarding his stance on the vaccination and protocols. Beasley spoke to media after the team's first training camp practice on Wednesday to share a statement he had prepared.
"I'm not anti- or pro-vax. I'm pro choice," Beasley said reading off his phone. "With that being said, the issue at hand is information being withheld from players in order for a player to be swayed in a direction he may not be comfortable with. When dealing with a player's health and safety, there should be complete transparency regarding information that is vital in the decision-making process."
Beasley finished the statement by sharing his thoughts on safety.
"In regard to player safety, I'll conclude by saying we all want to be safe," Beasley shared. "For so many players around the NFL, safety does not solely mean avoiding the COVID virus. Our health is the now and years beyond which we are trying to protect with our personal choice while doing all the things we did in our protocol during a very successful 2020 NFL season."
You can watch the rest of his statement by clicking here.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen isn't going to let the conversation interfere with their goals in mind for this season.
"Guys have different opinions, they have different thoughts, ideas," Josh Allen said on the differing views of the vaccine. "Everyone's entitled to that. If guys want to get it, great. If guys don't' want to get it, great. Nobody looks at the guys who aren't getting it as a distraction, or not wanting to help this team win.
"Everybody's in the same boat here. We're all going with one heartbeat and that's helping the Buffalo Bills win football games and ultimately try to win a championship."
Beasley and defensive lineman Jerry Hughes had an exchange on Twitter about the choice to get vaccinated, which ended in Hughes tweeting, "U my boy no matter what. I'm not telling u what's right/wrong. And I'm not the one making the rules, I'm just following them so I can play ball & finish what we started last year with the mafia cheering us on. Fun debate bro."
Beasley was asked about the conversation and said the two are brothers who can respect each other's opinions.
"We had a conversation on the phone immediately after, we talked it through, and we weren't mad at each other, we're just talking to each other," Beasley said. "A lot of things can be taken out of context and in the wrong way on social media because people are going to do what they do with it. Jerry's one of the guys that I'll run through a wall for. Brothers have debates, not everybody agrees on everything."
Different protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players can be an easy way to divide a team, but Bills head coach Sean McDermott wants to use it as a way to come together and build better relationships as a team.
Allen, like McDermott, doesn't see the new protocols as an obstacle but as a way to get closer.
"I think last year helped bring us together as a team," Allen shared. "I don't think this year is going to be any different. We all have to face adversity somewhere during the season, whether it be in a game or off the field. The team that handles this the best is obviously going to have the upper hand. We're just trying to navigate it the best we can and stick together."
Scroll through to see photos from the first practice at Bills Training Camp, presented by Connors and Ferris.
Even though Beasley has been one of the most vocal players on social media regarding the vaccine and protocols, he's not going to let it get in the way of what he's built in the last two seasons and the brotherhood he has with his teammates.
"I love all my teammates no matter what they want to do," Beasley shared. "I'm pro choice. Whatever they choose to do, that's cool with me. As long as you come out here and do what you have to do to help us be great, then I'm cool. And as long as you shoot me straight and tell me what you're thinking, I'm good. And that's what he (Jerry Hughes) does.
"And it's pretty much like that with everybody in the locker room, so a lot of that stuff is just kind of noise, you know what I mean. In there is a brotherhood and we'll fight each day for each other."