Four days after venting dismay about his team’s vaccination rate for COVID-19, Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said he met one on one with the club's unvaccinated players to discuss their decisions.
The result? Without delving into rate percentages or even a specific number of changed minds, Rivera is feeling better about his team's protection from the virus as of Saturday.
"I think it went across well because what I tried to do afterwards, I tried to talk to each one of the guys individually. After that, we had a number of guys that went and got vaccinated," Rivera said on NFL Network's Back Together Saturday. "We 've got a number that are supposed to go in (Sunday) and get vaccinated as well, on their day off. I think we're getting the message across."
On Tuesday, Rivera said he was "beyond frustrated" with the team's vaccination rate, noting that it had only crossed the 50% mark. As of Saturday morning, all but 10 NFL clubs have reached 90%, and Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed overall optimism for the league. In Washington, however, two more players – both offensive linemen, All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff and David Sharpe -- were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Beyond personal well-being, NFL players entered training camps with the additional incentive of team ramifications. Any canceled games as the result of a breakout among unvaccinated players, if it can't be made up, will be forfeited, and players involved in such a game – even those on the team without the breakout – will not be paid for that game. With the Delta variant spreading, Rivera believes his players are recognizing renewed concerns about the virus this summer.
"In light of what's happening across the United States and the world for that matter, I think our guys are starting to sense the urgency to do something right," Rivera added. "Hopefully we'll get that done."