BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott said he is vaccinated against COVID-19 but also recognized the topic’s divisive potential in the locker room.
McDermott said he “applauds” all those in the Bills’ building who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, including general manager Brandon Beane and owners Terry and Kim Pegula. He also said the team is operating at roughly “60%, 65%, 70% normal” thanks to the number of people within the facility who have been vaccinated.
Bills players and staff have held internal conversations regarding the vaccine, but McDermott recognizes that the time to have those conversations is running out.
“I’m concerned about it, being very upfront. I’m concerned about that as well as a lot of other things right now for our football team,” he said. “And I think timing is coming into play a little bit right now. Where the season is not upon us right now, but it will be at some point.
“But it’s something we’ve talked about and I don’t think the right word is try to convince. I think the right word is to educate and build awareness and then let people decide. It’s kind of two-pronged, if you will, with health and safety and then what you gotta do to do your job. I think those are the two prongs of the fork right now that must be considered and considered seriously.”
Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who told NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt in April that he was undecided about getting the vaccine, declined to disclose his vaccination status Tuesday. On Brandt’s podcast, Allen said, “If the statistics show it’s the right thing for me to do, I’d do it,” but that he’d also “lean the other way” if that’s what the statistics showed.
The NFL’s MVP runner-up in 2020, Allen confirmed the Bills have held internal conversations about the vaccine but wanted to keep those conversations private.
“We’re letting everyone make their own decisions,” he said.
The league reached out to Beane this month after he said hypothetically that he would cut an unvaccinated player if it meant the Bills could reach a league-imposed minimum percentage vaccinations in order to return to normal procedure. The NFL informed Beane that he would not be allowed to cut a player based solely on his vaccination status.
The NFL also released a memo this month in response to the CDC’s announcement that fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks or remain socially distant from one another. The league immediately integrated the CDC’s policy and lifted mask and social distancing restrictions within team facilities for players and staff who are fully vaccinated.
As things currently stand, Erie County, which owns and operates Highmark Stadium, plans to fully open the stadium only to vaccinated fans this season.