In the coronavirus community, Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson is their favorite NFL player.
Jackson, a former NFL MVP, is a two-time Covid customer, brought down first last November by the original variety, and then taken out again last month by one of the variants, perhaps the more virulent Delta virus.
Given those circumstances, you would think Jackson would run, not walk, to the nearest vaccination site, roll up his sleeve and take the shot. You, however, would be wrong.
Jackson is keeping his options open, not committing to the vaccine even after being sacked twice by the virus. The cheering you hear is from the virus variants, warming up on the NFL stadium sidelines, waiting for the next time the Ravens and their quarterback show up.
Jackson beat around the bush at his welcome-back press conference when he was asked about getting vaccinated. If he’s not convinced, the league and commissioner Roger Goodell certainly are.
As NFL teams began showing up for training camp, Goodell announced NFL policy with regard to the virus. The 17-game regular season is squeezed over 18 weeks with little wiggle room. If an unvaccinated player – are you listening, Lamar? – causes an outbreak of illness and a game is postponed and cannot be rescheduled, it will be ruled a forfeit. And that forfeit is not only in the standings but in the wallets of the team’s players, who will lose one payday.
Got that, Lamar?
The team is charged with a loss and the players get docked one week’s salary. With the fancy contracts of NFL players, that could be very expensive.
If players choose to avoid the vaccines, the league is requiring daily testing and segregation in travel plans. This is a no-fooling-around policy to deal with a no-fooling-around infection.
Jackson is not the only NFL type balking at the needle. There has been anti-vax rumbling around the league from high profile players like Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Tampa Bay Bucs running back Leonard Fournette. Both posted Twitter messages questioning the policy. Both messages were later deleted. Assistant coaches Rick Dennison of the Minnesota Vikings and Cole Popovich of the New England Patriots refused to be vaccinated and left their teams.
Meanwhile, the league prefers positive messages, claiming 19 teams have 90 percent of their players inoculated and 90 percent of all NFL players have had at least one shot.
That, however, is one shot less than Lamar Jackson, a two-time Covid casualty.