BEREA, Ohio — Across the country, the COVID-19 delta variant is beginning to surge, making the decision for individuals everywhere to get vaccinated even more pressing, and even more polarizing. But on the Cleveland Browns, those decisions aren't being taken lightly and the team says it's not causing friction in the locker room.
On Wednesday, wide receiver Jarvis Landry addressed the concerns over COVID-19 as it pertains to the team and the upcoming season.
"I think it's still a concern in the world, period," Landry said. "Like, I spoke about last year, this Cleveland Browns organization has done everything in its power to make sure that we're safe and in the conditions that we need to be in to be able to come and play football."
That includes regular COVID-19 testing, mask mandates for all unvaccinated players and contact tracing using the Kinexon devices.
But Browns center and NFLPA President JC Tretter has also addressed the use of other COVID-19 measures that the league has suggested, stressing that what they did last year worked and the new ideas are "nonsensical."
"I think last year, it wasn't perfect but we worked well together because we needed to and because we need everybody to buy and do the right things in order to get through a season. And we saw last year it wasn't perfect, but we were able to do that," Tretter said. "This year, this is not going to be easy again. We're going to really need to rely on a lot of the things we did last year, and that continues with being the protocols, but also the way we work together."
The NFL has pitched the idea of players being required to wear colored wristbands to indicate their vaccination status, which some teams around the league have implemented—an idea that Tretter recently discussed and condemned in an NFLPA article.
"We did not agree to them and think they are unnecessary," Tretter wrote in the article.
On Thursday at training camp, Tretter discussed the idea further, referring to the wristbands as "scarlet marking."
"It's just kind of a nonsensical idea. They say they need a differentiator between unvaccinated and vaccinated players—we already have a differentiator. The unvaccinated players need to wear masks," Tretter said. "No other sports leagues use any sort of scarlet marking or helmet decal or wristband because they know its not necessary and the teams know who's vaccinated and not vaccinated so what it really comes down to is the NFL wanted to put a policy in place to try to shame unvaccinated players publicly about their status and make that known to everybody on the field and that shouldn't be the case because it's unnecessary, we all know who's vaccinated and who's not, and it doesn't need to be a scarlet marking on people's helmet and wrist."
The Cleveland Browns organization is not using the wristband or helmet indicators, sticking with the original method of requiring masks for unvaccinated players.
"I think last year we proved in the middle of a pandemic we can complete a season and that's because of the protocols," Tretter said. "We believe the vaccine is safe and effective and if you have that you have a little different level of protocols of what you need to do. And we're still working on those. Those are going to be a continued moving target as we learn more about the delta variant."
While the conversations may seem polarizing and having the NFLPA president on the team might seem like it could cause drifts within the organization, the team has remained united—even with some players holding differing opinions.
When Landry was asked about the polarizing nature of the COVID-19 vaccination subject, he said that while it may be a topic with the ability to divide groups of people who might have different opinions on the matter, the Browns organization itself doesn't have that problem.
"Not in this organization. I think everybody's been kind of on one accord with what we have to—the rules, the protocols and how we're trying to do it here and stay safe," Landry said.
As the COVID-19 situation regarding vaccination rates and the new delta variant develops, the Browns are staying on the same front, no matter what each individual player chooses in regards to receiving the vaccine.
While the Browns have not disclosed the team's vaccination rate, head coach Kevin Stefanski said in June that more than 51 players had received the vaccine.
NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said on Thursday that 87.9% of NFL players overall are vaccinated with at least one shot while 19 clubs have more than 90% players vaccinated. McCarthy said seven clubs have more than 95% vaccinated.
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