Sports

Bills GM: Priority to reach a vaccination threshold

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane said during a radio appearance Wednesday that he would cut an unvaccinated player if it meant his team being able to return to some sense of normalcy.

Appearing on “One Bills Live” with hosts Chris Brown and former Bills player Steve Tasker, Beane presented a hypothetical scenario in which teams needed a certain number of vaccinated players to avoid having socially distanced or virtual meetings or wearing masks in the facility.

There is no official NFL mandate on vaccination, but Beane said he thinks it may be incentivized as such.

“The early indications are that if you’re vaccinated … that you are probably going to have to test once a week,” Beane said. “But if you’re not, then you’d have to test every day like we did last year. Still unsure about the masking, how that would go. I think there’s going to be some incentives to where, if you have X percentage of your players and staff vaccinated, you can live normal, let’s just call it. Back to the old days.

“If you don’t, it’s going to look more like last year. … I hope that, if those are the rules, we’ll be able to get enough people vaccinated and not have to deal with all the headaches from a year ago.”

Tasker then presented a scenario to Beane in which the Bills were one player away from reaching that ratio, asking if he would cut a player in order to return to normalcy.

Beane said he would, citing the advantage it would give the team.

“Yeah. I would. Because it’d be an advantage,” Beane said. “We’re laughing, but these meetings [last season] were not as productive as before. You guys saw it in the field house — sometimes we’d have three to four meetings going on, and sometimes you’re talking over each other. But it was the only way to pull it off and be socially distanced.

“So it would be an advantage to cut a player and fall under that umbrella.”

Last season, the NFL implemented myriad safety protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including daily testing, socially distanced or virtual meetings and a mask mandate while in the team facility. With the COVID-19 vaccine’s recent availability, however, it is unclear what the league’s policies will be for the 2021 season.

Vaccinations have been a hot-button issue locally. Erie County executive Mark Poloncarz said Bills games would be open at full capacity this season — but only to fans who are fully vaccinated. That sparked backlash from some, including safety Jordan Poyer‘s wife, Rachel Bush.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo responded to Poloncarz’s announcement, saying such a decision would have to get state approval but calling the recommendation “plausible.”


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