The Buffalo Bills have learned to live without defensive anchor Star Lotulelei over the past two seasons.
First, the defensive tackle opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19, and now he has missed extended time this year while on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. While some fans have grown upset with head coach Sean McDermott over the number of unvaccinated players missing time this season, an insider has shared a key detail that offers more of an explanation about Lotulelei’s missing time.
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Reason for Lotulelei’s Absence
After the Bills were able to make it through the 2020 season without any major COVID-19 disruptions, not suffering some of the team-wide outbreaks that befell opponents, the virus-related absences are now starting to mount this year. Within the past few weeks, the Bills placed three quarterbacks on the reserve list and are currently missing two starters, Lotulelei and offensive tackle Spencer Brown.
McDermott has remained steadfast in respecting the choices of his players, not offering any comment on vaccinations or revealing which players are or are not 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.
While the decision has led to some anger among fans, an insider explained why Lotulelei may have remained unvaccinated despite opting out last year. Former Bills player turned One Bills Live host Steve Tasker revealed that Lotulelei has a medical condition that makes him a high risk, which is the reason he was not vaccinated.
While Tasker did not offer any further details, some of Lotulelei’s medical conditions have been a matter of public record. As USA Today’s Bills Wire noted last year, Lotulelei skipped the scouting combine in 2013 due to a heart condition in which his left ventricle was working below the normal efficiency.
Status for Thanksgiving Game Remains Unknown
While Lotulelei is now beyond the mandated 10-day period that unvaccinated players must remain away from teammates after going on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, it was not clear if he would be able to play in the team’s game against the New Orleans Saints on Thanksgiving.
The Bills missed Lotulelei on Sunday, when Colts running back Jonathan Taylor gashed Buffalo’s defense for a career-high 185 cards on 32 carries with five total touchdowns. After the game, McDermott said the team would need to find some answers and do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve got to get that fixed,” McDermott said. “There’s a formula to win and there’s a formula on the other end of it too. And when you’re giving up… when we’re getting beat at the point of attack, obviously, I have to do a better job there.”
Lotulelei remained on the reserve list as of Tuesday. While the Bills could be without him against the Saints, another key defensive player is trending toward a return to the lineup. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who missed the Colts game, has returned to practice this week as a full participant.