The Cleveland Browns were hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than almost every team in the NFL last year.
That experience has, at least in part, helped shape the opinion of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield as to the value of COVID-19 vaccinations in the context of the upcoming regular season.
“Obviously last year was new for everybody, so it was a lot of learning the protocols,” Mayfield said Wednesday to media members outside his youth football camp in Gates Mills, Ohio. “It definitely poses a competitive advantage for higher vaccine rates on your team, just because of the close contact rates and what happens if somebody does unfortunately get COVID, and what can happen to the rest of the building.”
But Mayfield did not stop at football when extolling the value of vaccination.
“It’s a competitive advantage, but it’s also way more than that,” the Browns quarterback said. “It’s about safety, just general health and (the) well-being of human life.”
NFL COVID Policy Will Paint Very Different Realities For Vaccinated Versus Unvaccinated
Disagreement around COVID-19 vaccinations has permeated personal discussion and industry policy across the United States, and the institution of the NFL is no different.
Players are not required by the league to get inoculated. However, daily life in the NFL will be wildly different for players and coaches who are vaccinated as opposed to those who choose not to be.
Tom Pelissero, of the NFL Network, reported last month the specific differences in league policy as it pertains to vaccinated and unvaccinated players.
Players who are vaccinated, for example, will not be required to take daily virus testing. They will face no mask mandates, no social distancing requirements and no isolation policies during team travel.
Those players who are not vaccinated will be subject to all of those restrictions, and will also be disallowed from venturing out of the team hotel to visit restaurants or bars. Further, they will be banned from interacting with anyone who is not a member of their team while on the road.
Coronavirus Had High-Profile Impact on Browns Players, Staff Last Season
The hits to the Browns organization during the pandemic-plagued 2020 season seemed never to end.
Nearly the entire wide receiving corps was forced to miss a December game against the New York Jets after five wideouts, including Jarvis Landry and Donovan Peoples-Jones, were placed on the COVID-19 list.
Just days later, more positive tests in the wake of the virus outbreak in the receivers room forced the Browns to shut down their practice facility.
Approximately one week after that closure, head coach Kevin Stefanski was banished from the sidelines of Cleveland’s first playoff appearance in nearly 20 years due to the league’s COVID-19 protocol.
Stefanski, too, has spoken to the value of vaccinations in the context of the upcoming NFL season.
“We are not 100 percent (vaccinated as a team), so we are going to make sure we continue to educate our guys on how this can help themselves and their families. We have talked about how it is a competitive advantage,” Stefanski told reporters during Browns minicamp. “We want to make sure that they have a ton of information as they make their choice, but I am not going to get into the specifics of who is vaccinated and who is unvaccinated.”
The NFL has urged teams to press for 85% vaccination rates within their player ranks prior to the start of training camp on July 27. As of last week, the league said that 10 of its franchises have reached, or exceeded, that goal.
A total of 73% of players currently on team rosters have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to a report from the NFL.