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COVID-19 still a problem as NFL teams report to training camp

Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney participates in drills

Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney participates in drills during minicamp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on June 9, 2021. Credit: Brad Penner

The Giants got some good news Tuesday when rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last Thursday, was activated and rejoined the team. But the news was not as promising for two other players, as linebacker Blake Martinez and safety Joshua Kalu were added to the list.

The Jets, meanwhile, haven’t had any players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, as all NFL teams have now reported for the start of training camp.

"[Toney] is with us today in the building, so he’s back with us," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "We have a number of guys for different reasons that we’re actually going to take them a little bit slower. Obviously, coming off of that protocol as we learned last year with the number of players on our team throughout the season … we’re not going to go ahead and rush anything to get in the process. [Toney] will be in the meetings with all our players. He’ll be able to go out there and operate."

Neither team divulged what percentage of the players have been vaccinated, but there are indications the Giants will reach the 85% threshold that will relax some masking and distancing measures required if teams do not have that large a percentage of the players vaccinated. Judge said all the Giants’ coaches have been vaccinated.

Jets first-year coach Robert Saleh did not specify how many players and/or coaches are vaccinated, but under newly enacted protocols, any coaches who aren’t vaccinated can have no direct contact with players. Based on the fact that the Jets coaches interacted with the players on the field during offseason workouts, it is likely they are all vaccinated.

"Every staff [member] and coach is fully vaccinated," Judge said. "That, I can tell you. In terms of the team itself and the number rate, I’m not going to get into rates. I would say that since the end of spring, we’ve had a number of players who have either started or finalized the vaccination process. We’ve had a number of meetings with our players that they understand that if they’re not vaccinated, [there are] protocols that are tied into that."

Saleh wasn’t specific about how many players are vaccinated, but he didn’t sound concerned.

"I know we’re above average," he said. "But I feel good about where we’re at."

Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley opted out of last season because of COVID-19 concerns, but he is back this year and got a vaccination after some initial hesitancy.

"When [the vaccines] first came out, I was a little skeptical," Mosley said Tuesday. "It was just something I didn’t know about. [But] once I talked to my parents and they got it, I thought that was the right thing to do for me and my family."

The NFL did not cancel any games last season despite vaccines not being available, although a handful of games were postponed because of positive cases. The league has said that more than 80% of its players have had at least once vaccine dose, but also underscored the fact that teams face forfeits if unvaccinated players render a team unable to field enough players. If a game is forfeited, neither team’s players will be paid for the missed game.

"From the union perspective, it’s the same protocols as last year if you’re unvaccinated," Jets player rep Greg Van Roten said. "If you’re vaccinated, you have a more normal day-to-day [interaction] in the facility. It’s fair to the guys that got the vaccine to have those protocols rolled back."

Van Roten said he is against the Jets, or any other team, making players wear bracelets or otherwise identified by those who are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

"I don’t think it’s right to single people out for a private personal decision," Van Roten said. "Guys have had the opportunity to make a decision. I don’t think we need to publicly pressure or shame anybody with a scarlet letter."

"Its very hard to be unvaccinated [this season]," said Giants player rep Logan Ryan, who is vaccinated. "The league’s made it pretty clear where they want to be with vaccinations."

Said Giants veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard, "Everybody is able to make a decision for themselves. If guys are stuck on not getting it, they’re not going to get it. I got vaccinated for my family. That’s all I can go off of. I want to be here for my teammates."

New York Sports