The Bears (and NFL) Have a New COVID Battle on Their Hands

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The Bears (and NFL) Have a New COVID Battle on Their Hands

Chicago Bears

Playing professional football through a pandemic was challenging (to say the least). But just because we’re progressing away from the darkest times doesn’t mean we’re totally in the clear. Perspective is king here.

And yet, I find this encouraging:

Remember: Head Coach Matt Nagy had to miss time during rookie minicamp because a close contact tested positive for COVID-19. And last year, OL Coach Juan Castillo missed prep work (and a game) due to being a close contact with someone who tested positive. Long story, short: The closer Chicago’s coaches get to full vaccination, the better off the team will be. Coaches and players missing time due to COVID issues is something I hope isn’t a problem that rears its ugly head in 2021.

This quote from Matt Nagy (via Patrick Finley of the Sun-Times) really drives it home: “It’s just different when you see people’s expressions [when] you talk to them out on the field, in meetings.”

After getting my shots and seeing friends who got theirs, I can attest that things are different when you’re able to see facial expressions in public again. It’s a nice feeling, to be sure. But, as a reminder, this is just the beginning of this season’s Bears battle against COVID-19.

Dan Wiederer (Tribune) writes about the mixed bag of reactions from players when discussing the COVID-19 vaccine. For instance, things are lining up for center Sam Mustipher to get his second shot next week. Mustipher sees getting the vaccine as something that will give him an opportunity to get on the field without restrictions. That’s probably important to someone battling for a job in camp.

“I just want to play ball,” Mustipher said. “That’s what I love to do. If getting the vaccine means I’m going to be out there no matter what, then I’m going to do it.”

That’s a nice sentiment. And it’s one I think that’s relatable across the spectrum. If you love doing X, and if taking the vaccine puts you in a position to enjoy X without restrictions, then it’s going to be an easy decision for those who see it in that light. Certainly, not everyone will. But that perspective from Mustipher is one that seems to be one that’s easy to relate to when it comes to where we are right now.

Elsewhere in the locker room, Wiederer quotes tight end Cole Kmet who said “I’m going to keep that private” when asked if he would get vaccinated. That Kmet is described as having dodged the question makes me feel uneasy. I wonder if discussing things with someone like Mustipher, his former Notre Dame teammate, would change how he answers the question if it comes his way again.

Meanwhile, newcomer Damien Williams — who opted out of 2020 because of the pandemic to help keep his mother safe after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer — is still on the fence. “I really haven’t made a decision on that yet,” Williams said, via Wiederer. “Right now, you really just want to do your studying on it and seeing the pros and cons.”

In the end, Nagy’s messages are simple: (1) “[I]f you’re not vaccinated, then you need to wear your mask.” and (2) “[F]or us, we would love for everybody to get their vaccinations. And we encourage that and educate them on it.” Education and encouragement can go a long way.

Ah, yes. As I was saying, education and encouragement can go a long way…

… but you have to be open to said education and encouragement in order to make a good decision.

Sam Darnold initially thought the mononucleosis diagnosis (which sparked a bajillion memes) was a prank. No, seriously.

Let me be clear. I don’t want to write about COVID stuff as much as you don’t want to read it. Thinking about 2020 can often lead to a rabbit hole no one wants to travel down. But so long as it’s an issue in the NFL, we must do our duty.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.