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Graney: Patience for players not vaccinated will wear thin

Updated August 3, 2021 - 3:16 pm

It’s a part of life, Nick Kwiatkoski said. You deal with it and take precautions and remind yourself to be careful.

“But at the end of the day,” added the Raiders linebacker, “we have work to do here. So things keep moving.”

NFL teams still own a hold-your-breath attitude when it comes to COVID-19, despite these numbers reported Tuesday: Ninety percent of NFL players are fully vaccinated or have received at least one shot; nine teams are above the 95 percent rate and 27 are at 85 percent or better.

But reality doesn’t always mesh with such facts.

It’s still important to call daily roll. You just never know.

Gruden: “It’s alarming”

Take the Raiders. On the same week running back Jalen Richard was removed from the COVID-19 list, placekicker Daniel Carlson was placed on it and general manager Mike Mayock — who is fully vaccinated — tested positive for the virus.

“It’s alarming to me because you have the vaccine and you still get COVID,” said head coach Jon Gruden. “You have a lot of people out there with expert analysis and the reality is that you’re never safe from this thing. So be careful. It’s not ideal, but what are you going to do? We have to adapt, something we’re becoming pretty good at.”

The case against taking the vaccine is beginning to show some cracks. You knew it would in such an ultra-competitive world. Winning is all that matters.

We have work to do here. So things keep moving.

Listen. It’s easy in training camp for teammates and coaches to live with teammates who choose not to take the vaccine. Nothing counts right now except avoiding injuries while preparing for 17 violent car crashes of an NFL regular season.

But that might change when things kick off for real. It’s one thing for stricter protocols to demand unvaccinated players wear masks and not eat meals with teammates and not be allowed to leave the hotel or interact with those outside the organization while on the road.

Guys can look past all that, but probably not the part about forfeiting games.

I still believe the odds of a forfeit happening rival those of Gruden abandoning the run in the red zone, but the chance exists that a team with a virus outbreak could be handed a loss while being held financially responsible for “all burdens the postponement incurs.”

In such an instance, neither team gets paid.

Zimmer sounds off

Locker rooms are united until paychecks are lost and your place in the standings is affected by reasons other than what occurs on the field. Let’s see how harmonious things are then.

Mike Zimmer isn’t waiting to offer his opinion. The Vikings coach spoke out after three of his quarterbacks — starter Kirk Cousins, backup Nate Stanley and rookie Kellen Mond — all entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol Saturday.

Mond tested positive and the other two were deemed high-risk close contacts who must isolate for five days while missing all practices.

At one point Monday, an assistant coach for the Vikings reportedly stepped in and took snaps during a drill. A total disaster.

“I just don’t understand,” Zimmer told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. “I think we can put this thing to bed if we’d all (get vaccinated). Some of them just won’t do it. I shouldn’t say it, but some of the things they read is just, whew, out there.

“Something like this happens a day before a game that has a chance to get you to the playoffs or something like that …”

The questions about vaccinations aren’t going away, in life or the NFL.

So teams like the Raiders continue adapting and call daily roll. Things keep moving.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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