This vague answer led many reporters and fans to speculate on whether or not Gang Green had an impending vaccination threshold problem on their hands. The NFL cannot force players to get vaccinated but they have taken measures to separate and even alienate those that aren’t, including the new forfeiting rule and the list of protocols below.
“Personally I don’t think it’s right to publicly single people out for a private, personal decision,” Van Roten voiced despite his status as a vaccinated player, “I understand how it would possibly affect the team in the long run if someone contracts it but we went through an entire season last year with the same protocols [and] I think the Jets had one player test positive.”
He continued: “We learn more every day. I think guys have had the opportunity to make an informed decision, I don’t think we need to publicly pressure or shame anybody by, you know, a scarlet letter.”
Those comments came on July 27, 2021, shortly after head coach Robert Saleh told media that the team’s numbers were “above average” and that he “feels good about where [the Jets] are at.” On July 28, 2021, the official results were finally revealed.
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The Numbers Are In
Coach Saleh came into his press conference prepared for that inevitable vaccination threshold question today.
“We’re at 81, so that gives us 90%,” replied the Jets HC, “and we’re getting guys signing up every day, so we’re in really good shape.” On the follow-up about coaches, Saleh confirmed that the entire coaching staff is fully vaccinated.
This is good news for the Green and White. One, NYJ fans probably don’t have to worry about any forfeits in 2021. Two, the franchise went about things the right way and didn’t force anyone to get the vaccine that didn’t want it.
With the way this controversial situation has unfolded around the league, the Jets have actually handled it far better than most teams, including a couple of division rivals.
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Around the NFL: Bills in Turmoil, Patriots Speak Out
Vaccination talk has spread like a wildfire throughout NFL Twitter. Here are some of the notable tweets from players around the league.
For clarity, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted this after deleting his initial statement on the social media app, which read: “Never thought I would say this, but being in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @nfl.”
There were also a couple of deleted tweets. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette wrote: “Vaccine I can’t do it…….”
Las Vegas Raiders running back Jalen Richard: “Read the rules-know em like you know your plays, we playing in jail this year and you should act as such.”
Of course, there’s also the viral tweet from New England Patriots edge rusher Matt Judon (containing expletives) that has yet to be deleted: “The NFLPA F—ing sucks.” The recent Pats free-agent acquisition revealed that he was actually vaccinated, explaining that he was frustrated by the NFL’s forfeit rule.
New England also wasn’t able to come to an agreement with co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich, who parted ways with the organization after refusing to get the vaccine. A similar situation occurred in Minnesota with Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison, but the Vikes later rehired him to a team advisor role in a compromise.
On the other side of things, Washington Football Team head coach and cancer survivor Ron Rivera admitted that he was “beyond frustrated” with his roster for having a team vaccination rate that is under 50%. Outside of Washington, the Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts have the lowest vaccination rates in the league according to Rob Maaddi of Associated Press.
Buffalo has had more public conflict than any other NFL franchise and there is no immediate end in sight. A factor that could certainly slow the momentum of a team with championship aspirations in 2021 after losing in the AFC Championship last season.