- The Washington Times
Sunday, July 25, 2021

Terrelle Pryor wants back in the NFL. The former Washington receiver hasn’t been on a roster since 2019, and his last actual appearance in a game came a year before that. But when the 32-year-old landed a tryout recently — a chance that could help him return to the league — Pryor took to Twitter. 

He was conflicted. The team interested in working out the wide receiver would only do so if Pryor was vaccinated. And Pryor has not had the shot.

“Now I’m torn between,” Pryor wrote in a now-deleted tweet Saturday. “Tough decision.” 

Pryor’s tweet was one of the many ways that players around the league have voiced their concern about getting the vaccine as a handful of teams have already begun training camp and with the rest set to soon join them. 

Last week, the NFL issued a memo that made clear the consequences for not being vaccinated: A game that can’t be postponed would result in a forfeit for the team responsible for a coronavirus outbreak among unvaccinated players. The league has not outright mandated the vaccine, but the memo was the latest example of the NFL practically doing so — prompting an outcry from unvaccinated players, from superstars to role players.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was one of the biggest names lashing out. The three-time All-Pro blasted the policy, tweeting — and later deleting — that he was now questioning his future in the NFL. He added in another tweet, which is still up, “Freedom?” After setting off retirement speculation, Hopkins wrote that he had “about (nine) more years left in me, y’all have a good day.” 

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey pushed back against a tweet that suggested a player would be a bad teammate for not getting the vaccine — writing “I know 2 people right now who got the vaccine but are COVID positive.” Ramsey added that he wouldn’t disown a teammate who chooses to be unvaccinated, saying he wouldn’t pressure them to get the shot.

Hopkins replied to Ramsey’s tweet that his girlfriend’s brother started having heart issues as a result of the vaccine. Hopkins later deleted that tweet as well. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement in June that said more than a thousand people have developed heart inflammation as a severe side effect, though the federal agency cautioned such cases are rare and noted individuals with the condition often recover. 

The NFL’s memo even fueled disagreements among teammates as Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes and Cole Beasley got into a social media exchange. After Hughes supported the vaccine publicly and the league’s push to get players vaccinated, Beasley responded, in part, by writing, “From minority to the majority now the minorities don’t matter?” 

Hughes said he was just trying to follow the rules so “I can play ball” and build on the Bills’ run to the AFC Championship. “Fun debate, bro,” he wrote. 

No player has yet to opt-out of the season over his refusal to get vaccinated — but a few coaches have. On Friday, ESPN reported Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach was set to lose his job over his vaccine hesitancy. The Vikings promoted assistant and former Washington offensive line coach Phil Rauscher to fill the position. New England’s Cole Popovich also stepped aside because he wasn’t vaccinated.

While vaccines are voluntary for players, they are mandatory for coaches, executives and other staff members in the league’s “Tier 1” personnel. Coaches, for example, are not allowed to be on the field or around players if unvaccinated. 

The NFL said in a memo Thursday that more than 75% of players are in the process of being vaccinated and more than half of the league’s teams were at least 80% vaccinated among players. 

New England’s Matthew Judon lashed out at the NFL Player’s Association in response to Thursday’s memo — writing the union “[expletive] sucks.”

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