JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said he and General Manager Trent Baalke took into account a player’s vaccination status during the final squad cuts.
Meyer said Tuesday that this was being considered due to stricter COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated players who tested positive or identified as high-risk close contacts compared to the protocols for vaccinated players.
The roster was cut to 53 players on Tuesday.
“Everyone was taken into account,” said Meyer. “That was part of the [considerations such as] Production, let’s talk about it, and is he also vaccinated or not? Can I say that was a decision maker? It was certainly considered. “
Meyer’s comments did not go down well with the NFL Players Association. George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director for foreign affairs, emailed ESPN that Meyer’s statements “prompted us to open an investigation.”
The NFL reiterated in May that there is a rule prohibiting teams from circumcising players based on their vaccination status. That came after comments from Buffalo Bill’s general manager Brandon Beane during an appearance on the team-sponsored One Bill’s live radio show when he said he was cutting an unvaccinated player to get the team closer to herd immunity “because it it would be “an advantage” for a team to have a normal offseason experience. According to several reports, the NFL spoke to Beane about his comments.
For his part, Meyer said vaccination status was one of the things that was taken into account, not that players were cut just because of their vaccination status.
The difference in the protocols for vaccinated and unvaccinated players is significant. An unvaccinated player who tests positive or is classified as close contact at high risk would miss significantly more time than a vaccinated player.
Vaccinated players are tested weekly, and those who test positive must be absent for 10 days or can return sooner once they receive two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart. Vaccinated players cannot be identified as high risk close contacts, but if exposed to someone who tests positive they must wear a mask within the facility and test daily for five days after the day of exposure.
Unvaccinated players are tested daily and those who test positive have to miss 10 days and then there is a three day protocol for returning to the game. Unvaccinated players identified as close contacts at high risk must test immediately. If they test negative they still have five days to miss and can return on day 6. If they test positive, they must go through the 10-day quarantine and three-day return-to-game protocol.
Meyer said at the start of the training camp that the team tried to educate the players about the vaccine and encouraged them to get vaccinated, but that each player was allowed to choose for themselves. However, Meyer also acknowledged that the protocols are for an unvaccinated player who tests positive or is believed to have had close, high-risk contact that could significantly affect the team’s chances of winning.
As an example, he cited Josh Allen’s defensive situation.
Allen, the team’s best pass rusher, was put on the reserve COVID-19 list on August 23 and was not removed until Tuesday. Anyone who refused to reveal their vaccination status but wore a mask during interviews missed the Jaguars’ last two preseason games.
“Well, Josh Allen has never had it [COVID-19]”Said Meyer. “He hasn’t played in two weeks. So he has never had COVID. I don’t know if I can say that, but he’s never had COVID. So that’s quite a punishment. “