Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on Wednesday told reporters that it will be "so much easier" for players this season to perform team duties and have freedom if they are vaccinated, a foreshadowing of a league memo released later in the day.
Vaccinated players only need to get COVID testing every two weeks, don't need to wear masks or quarantine even after exposure to high-risk contacts. They will enjoy a lot of freedom they didn't have in 2020.
Those who haven't received the COVID-19 vaccine will be subject to daily testing and can be fined more than $10,000 if they violate various protocols.
What's particularly interesting to me is the potential this has to disrupt and create divides within all 32 NFL locker rooms, the Vikings' included. I talked about that on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast (episode 100!).
While players might publicly say they support whatever decisions their teammates make regarding vaccines, there is a practical element at play.
Zimmer said he has been touting to his players the idea of minimizing disruptions and increasing normalcy via vaccines, saying it's "not only the safety part of getting vaccinated, but as far as being part of a football team, it's just going to be so much easier."
This getting treated as be a team player instead of listen to science is interesting because it re-frames the discussion.
Three prominent Vikings players — Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith and Sheldon Richardson — already said this week they are not vaccinated (at least not yet), while QB Kirk Cousins declined to disclose whether he has or has not.
I have my own (strong) personal feelings about the vaccine, but what I'm most interested in here, again, is the framing of this and the potential it has to divide locker rooms. More than half of NFL players are vaccinated, the Washington Post recently reported, but using that measurement means a lot of them are not.
Imagine players missing games after testing positive months after a vaccine was available.
"They have to make their own decisions," Zimmer said, adding right after that "the unvaccinated players are going to have a hard time during the season."