On Tuesday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that over half of the team’s players are vaccinated, six months after one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in sports. It’s unclear whether star quarterback Lamar Jackson is among them.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday at a virtual news conference on the second day of the Ravens’ mandatory minicamp in Owings Mills, Jackson declined to say whether he’s vaccinated, calling it a personal decision.
“Just like everyone in society, it’s their decision, keeping that to themselves,” Jackson said. “But I feel we do a great job here of taking the vaccine, staying away from COVID, following the right preparation and stuff like that, staying away from the outside to the people that are attracting it.”
The Ravens’ coaching staff is fully vaccinated, along with general manager Eric DeCosta, but team officials have maintained that they would leave the decision up to players.
Half of the NFL’s 32 teams have 51 or more players vaccinated, the NFL Network reported Tuesday, while every organization’s coaching staff and team personnel are at least 90% vaccinated. In April, the league effectively mandated that all Tier 1 and 2 employees, including coaches, get vaccinated unless they had “bona fide” exemptions.
But the NFL and the NFL Players Association have not yet required vaccines for players, and the NFLPA is unlikely to pass such a rule.
After testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 26, Jackson missed a Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers last season that was postponed three times as the Ravens dealt with a “highly contagious” strain of COVID-19 and noncompliance with NFL protocols that led to an outbreak that infected players, coaches and staff members, along with family members.
Starting on Nov. 22 with running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins, at least one Ravens player reported a positive test for COVID-19 for 10 straight days. Jackson was among 23 Ravens in that span added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, designated for players who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are considered a “high-risk” close contact.
On the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, Harbaugh declined to specify what share of the Ravens on the team’s 90-man roster have been vaccinated, but said “it’s a pretty high number, pretty well above 50%.”
Harbaugh said last month that he’s spoken with his team about the implications of getting vaccinated.
Under new protocols for training camps and preseason games agreed to by the league NFL Players Association on Wednesday, according to a memo obtained by NFL.com, fully vaccinated players will no longer have to be tested daily, will not have to wear masks inside team facilities, will have no travel restrictions, and will not have to self-quarantine after exposure to an infected person. They can also eat in the team’s cafeteria, use the sauna, and interact with vaccinated family and friends during travel.
Unvaccinated players will have to be tested daily, wear a mask inside team facilities and self-quarantine after exposure, and will have travel and facility restrictions, among other restrictions. Unvaccinated players also are not allowed to do any social media, marketing or sponsorship activities, use the sauna/steam room and cannot leave the team hotel or interact with anyone outside the team traveling party when they are on the road. Jackson, the 2019 NFL Most Valuable Player entering his fourth season, has been seen wearing a face mask during practice this week.
There are competitive advantages for teams with high vaccination rates as well. According to the memo, fully vaccinated individuals exposed to a COVID-positive individual won’t be labeled a high-risk close contact and subject to the mandatory five-day isolation that kept players, coaches and others out of games last season. Additionally, the league and its teams are allowed to issue fines of a game check up to $50,000 for a first offense of violating protocols.
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“I haven’t been hearing of any breakouts, like last year ... with all the stuff going on, people catching it left and right,” Jackson said. “I haven’t been hearing about it, so I feel like this year ... everyone is doing a great job with it.”