Washington coach and cancer survivor Ron Rivera 'beyond frustrated' with unvaccinated players

·3-min read

Between the increasing spread of the Delta variant and the NFL's hardline stance against unvaccinated players, NFL team vaccination rates have become massively important heading into the 2021 season.

The Washington Football Team is apparently behind the curve on that front, and no one is more frustrated than the team's head coach. Ron Rivera, who spent last season battling skin cancer, vented to reporters about his team's vaccine situation on Tuesday.

From The Washington Post:

“I’m truly frustrated,” Rivera said. “I’m beyond frustrated. One of the reasons I walked in with a mask on is I’m immune-deficient. … When I’m in a group and the group’s not vaccinated or there’s a mixture, I put the mask on, and I do that for health reasons because nobody really knows [about the new delta variant]. I have to do that. And I just wish and I hope that our guys can understand that.”

The NFL announced Tuesday that 85 percent of all players have received at least one does of coronavirus vaccine. Per the Post, the team's player vaccination rate was 36 percent in early July and has since taken a significant jump, but still lags well behind the league.

Rivera didn't reveal his own team's exact number, but did disclose that nearly 100 percent of Washington's coaches and staffers have been vaccinated.

Ron Rivera and NFL want players vaccinated

Washington is already feeling some effect of COVID-19 in camp, as the team reportedly placed starting right tackle Cornelius Lucas on the COVID-19/reserve list on Tuesday. Rivera said he plans to have individual conversations with some players about vaccination:

“I’m not going to tell anybody what to do,” Rivera said. “I’m going to try to understand them and give them some reasons why I think it’ll be a good thing. And we’ll see how it goes. I hope we can get to these guys and get them to understand, really, it’s not just for them, but it’s for the people around them. And that’s the thing, hopefully, that will get their attention.”

Previously, Rivera had gone as far as bringing in a key Moderna vaccine researcher to address players' concerns with the vaccines, but even that didn't assuage some players' concerns. In fact, at least one player, pass rusher Montez Sweat, was openly unhappy about the push:

“I’m not a fan of it at all,” Sweat said during a post-practice Zoom conference. “I won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts.”

Rivera revealed his cancer diagnosis shortly before the beginning of last season, and spent pretty much the entire season undergoing treatment for the squamous cell cancer in his lymph nodes while managing a football team. He was pronounced cancer-free in January, but remains immune-deficient and faces increased risk if he contracts COVID-19.

Even beyond their coach's health, Washington's unvaccinated players are also facing major competitive and financial repercussions in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak during the season. 

Under the NFL's new rules, basically designed to heavily incentivize player vaccination, Washington will be facing a forfeit and and its players will be at risk of losing a game check if a game is canceled due to an unvaccinated player outbreak.

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