Vrabel

(Photo by Donald Page/Tennessee Titans)

The Tennessee Titans ended their minicamp early, meeting for the final time on Thursday before reconvening for training camp in late July.

While the team will have roughly 40 days off before taking the field again, Titans players won’t exactly be doing nothing for the next four weeks. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel stated every player was sent home more educated on the COVID-19 vaccination than they were before minicamp began and that the players could use the break before training camp to continue educating themselves on the situation.

“This is certainly something that’s become a large focal point,” Vrabel said. “What’s important is the education, the communication is there. We have had multiple conversations with them.”

As of Thursday morning, just two NFL teams have reached an 85 percent vaccination rate — the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. The Denver Broncos are reportedly close to hitting that 85 percent mark as well, which the NFL has designated as the threshold teams must reach to benefit from relaxed COVD-19 protocols.

No official numbers have been released on how many Titans players have been vaccinated or plan to get vaccinated, and Vrabel commented that the decision whether or not to get vaccinated was entirely up to the players.

“We’re going to respect their decision to do what’s best and continue to get the education that they need to make an informed decision,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to comment on why someone would or wouldn’t get it.”

“I can’t speak on the entire NFL, but I know on this team we’ve tried to be as informative as possible,” Titans guard Rodger Saffold said on Tuesday. “Nobody has been forced. Everybody has been given the option. It’s all about safety for yourself, safety for your family.”

The NFL isn’t mandating that any player get vaccinated, but the league is certainly incentivizing those that do. Nearly half of NFL players have been vaccinated to date, and those that do not get vaccinated will have much more stringent protocols than those that do. 

The league sent a memo on Wednesday stating that those fully vaccinated will not have to be tested daily, won’t have to wear face masks, won’t have to socially distance, won’t have to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure, may eat in the team cafeteria, will have no capacity restrictions in the team weight room, and they will have no travel restrictions or limitations on gathering with family or friends. 

For the unvaccinated, a tougher protocol awaits that includes daily testing, a mask mandate, required social distancing at the team facility, mandatory quarantine periods after COVID-19 exposure, travel and capacity restrictions in the team weight room/cafeteria, and they may not leave the team hotel or eat at restaurants while traveling.

“We can be gathered, it’s just at what distance,” Vrabel continued. “I don’t think there’s going to be an issue with whatever threshold that we get to about being able to coach, being able to function. 

“As far as the close contact, the tracing, ... we have to be responsible. Making sure that we’re tracking who’s wearing their mask ... [because] the NFL can fine you for. That’s where the competitive advantage or disadvantage may come in. I don’t think it’s going to be about preparing. It’s just going to be [about] where guys may have to be out for five days if they’re a close contact of someone if they’re not vaccinated.”

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

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