Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott has avoided any public criticism of the team’s unvaccinated players, even as the number of players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list continues to mount and losses drop them deeper down the playoff picture. Some fans now believe it’s time for McDermott to change his approach.
The Bills were without two key starters in Sunday’s 41-15 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, with defensive lineman Star Lotulelei and offensive tackle Spencer Brown both being placed on the reserve list. McDermott has been tight-lipped about their vaccination status, but both players are at risk of missing the now-critical Thanksgiving night matchup against the New Orleans Saints if they are not vaccinated.
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McDermott Quiet on Unvaccinated Players
Following Sunday’s loss to the Colts, which dropped the Bills all the way down to the seventh and final playoff spot, McDermott was asked about the COVID-19 issues that the team is facing. His reply mentioned respecting the choices of his players, which to some fans seemed to indicate that one or both of the starters currently out has chosen not to get vaccinated.
“Again, I respect those guys’ decisions, and I want to talk about the guys that were here,” McDermott said, via ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg.
McDermott’s approach didn’t sit well with some fans, who urged him to take a more hardline stance on unvaccinated players.
McDermott has taken a harder stance on the issue in the past. After Bills receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Cole Beasley were fined $14,650 by the NFL for violating the league’s mask policy in August, McDermott expressed some frustration that the team’s vaccination rate remained low, but still stressed that he would respect the decisions of his players.
“It’s tough. It’s frustrating. It’s challenging, however you want to say it,” McDermott said, via The Associated Press. “But I can’t make the decision for them.”
McDermott seemed to foreshadow this season’s problems, saying back in August that the team would be at a competitive disadvantage if players remained unvaccinated into the season.
“There’s people’s livelihoods at stake in terms of people’s jobs,” McDermott said. “Being able to count on people is important, so when you’re going through a week — if this were a real week — and having the players out that we’ve had, that makes it harder to win games that way.”
While some fans may not be happy with his approach, McDermott is also limited by the league’s rules and the NFL Players Association, which fought for players to have the right to choose.
Status of Lotulelei, Brown Remains Unknown
With a short week between Sunday’s loss to the Colts and Thursday night’s game against the Saints, it remained unclear whether Lotulelei and Brown would be ready to play. If Brown is unvaccinated, the game would fall within the 10-day window where he is mandated to remain away from the team. Lotulelei would be beyond that 10-day period, but would still be unable to play if he is symptomatic.
McDermott said he could not shed any more light on the situation, noting that he is unable to publicly discuss their status. There could be at least one bit of good news, however. Pro Bowl linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who missed Sunday’s game against the Colts, was a full participant in the team’s walk-through on Monday in preparation of the Thanksgiving game.