The Week That Was: The NFL Takes On COVID 19

Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took a hardline with players who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when he unilaterally declared that if an NFL game is cancelled because an unvaccinated player caused a team outbreak, then the team which caused the trouble will forfeit the game. In addition, no player on either team will get paid that week.

The National Football League Players Association will certainly challenge Goodell’s edict. Frankly, the part about the “innocent team” which did seem both draconian and unfair. On the other hand, Goodell is right in feeling those who have done the right thing by getting their jabs should not be held hostage to the “freedoms” of anti-vaxxers.

The shockingly low percentage of NFL players who have gotten the vaccine had to have triggered Goodell’s reaction. Rookie Jets QB Zach Wilson did not directly answer whether he took his shots. He replied, “It’s a personal matter,” which is a euphemism for “Absolutely not and I have no intention of ever doing so.” Jets owner Woody Johnson, general manager Joe Douglas, and new head coach Robert Saleh should hold a meeting with him and explain that being a respected team leader means figuratively and literally, rolling up your sleeves.

Last month I spoke with legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg who was the inspiration for the Tom Cruise film, “Jerry Maguire,” which is marking its 25th anniversary. Steinberg is still representing athletes across the sports spectrum and his latest project is his online academy whose mission is to train the next generation of agents.

I asked Steinberg why so many NFL players have been slow to get vaccinated. It would seem hypocritical for them to be fearful of the after-effects of these vaccines since many of these players have taken painkillers and they have no clue about their contents.

“There was no group of employees who were tested for COVID-19 as frequently as NFL players were last year,” Steinberg told me. “If that’s the case then if I were a player and was told that a vaccine would obviate the need for long swabs to be shoved up my nostrils, my immediate reaction would be to ask where can I sign up and low long will it take to get my shot?” I responded. Steinberg agreed with my logic and said that he strongly encourages all his clients to be vaccinated.

New York Giants head coach Joe Judge won raves from both players and fans during his rookie 2020 season. One reason for his popularity is his reputation for being a straight shooter which isn’t surprising for a guy who grew up just outside of Philadelphia. Judge showed that refreshing candor when he said vaccine status would be a factor when deciding which players to keep on his team’s roster. Amen to that.


Right after the All-Star Game break New York Post sports columnist Mike Vaccaro wrote a glowing piece on how the Mets had spent 89 days alone in first place and how happy their fans should be, As I reminded him on social media, the only thing which counts is if the Mets were alone in first place at the end of the regular season. I have a feeling Mike regrets writing that column. It happens to the best of us.

Mets fans have become accustomed to watching their heroes stumble over the years but the bellyflop the Mets took last week on their disastrous road trip to Miami and Philadelphia rates with their collapses in both September 2007 and 2008. The Mets left Queens ten days ago 3.5 games ahead of the Phillies, but by the time they traveled in their chartered Academy Bus up the New Jersey Turnpike Sunday afternoon they were 2.5 games behind them. Given summer traffic, that South Philadelphia to Flushing ride probably took around four hours and must have seemed about three times that. I doubt they were having a singalong to pass the considerable time.

While getting swept three games by the Phillies over the weekend was most injurious to the Mets in the National League East standings, dropping three out of four to the lowly Marlins right after they were manhandled by the Yankees, may have had a more deleterious effect on the Mets’ psyche which set the stage for the City of Brotherly Love debacle.

Losing games obviously isn’t any fun but what has becoming an alarming trend this season has been their propensity to load the bases with no one out and then not scoring a single run. There was a time when not scoring a run in those situations was newsworthy. With the Mets, however, the opposite seems to be true.

The good news for the Mets is there are still plenty of games to be played. The bad news is most of the remaining games are against some of baseball’s best teams. If the Mets continue to flounder as they have since the All-Star Game, then the return of ace Jacob deGrom in September will be of little importance except to have the Mets finish ahead of the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins.

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