BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley said he spoke with the NFLPA soon after complaining about its jointly agreed-to policy with the NFL regarding COVID-19 protocols.
The policy, which applies to training camp and the preseason, heavily restricts unvaccinated players while allowing vaccinated players to return to near normalcy — which made Beasley question Thursday via his Twitter account whether “anyone will fight for the players.”
Beasley tweeted Friday morning a confirmation of The Athletic’s report that the NFLPA had reached out to him and come to an understanding regarding certain aspects of the policy.
“Now we have spoken and are working through it,” he wrote. “From what I’m told these are guidelines for preseason and it’s nothing final.”
The notable differences in the new policy include no daily testing for vaccinated players, who will also no longer be required to wear masks at the team’s facility or during team travel. Vaccinated players will also have no travel restrictions, can use the sauna/steam room and weight room without capacity limits, and can interact with vaccinated friends and family during team travel.
Unvaccinated players will be required to test for COVID-19 every day and must wear masks throughout the team facility and during travel. They will also not be allowed to use the sauna/steam rooms, are subject to weight room capacity limits, and may not leave the team hotel to eat in restaurants or interact with anyone outside of the team traveling party during team travel.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two sets of protocols: Unvaccinated players will be required to quarantine after high-risk exposure to COVID-19, while vaccinated players will not.
Beasley expressed confusion over the new protocols and didn’t shy away from criticizing the NFL and NFLPA.
“This is crazy. Did we vote on this?” he tweeted. “I stay in the hotel. We still have meetings. We will all be together. Vaccinated players can go out the hotel and bring covid back in to where I am. So what does it matter if I stay in the hotel now? 100 percent immune with vaccination? No.
“The players association is a joke. Call it something different. It’s not for the players. Everyone gives me the 98 percent of people who are vaccinated don’t get covid again. The odds of me getting in the NFL and playing for 10 years are lower than that and I’m here.”
Beasley went on to call the NFLPA “a joke,” and Bills teammate Jon Feliciano also questioned the organization.
“Don’t forget the Coaches to @NFL trying to force them to get vax or they can’t coach in person,” he tweeted in response to Beasley. “@NFLPA a lot of these coaches were former players who’s helping them?”
When called an “anti-vaxxer” by another Twitter user, Feliciano responded by saying he is vaccinated but respects what other people decide to do with their bodies.
Beasley previously responded to a CNN story in May about vaccinated people no longer needing to wear a mask outdoors, saying, “I do that without being vaccinated. Is this illegal now?” The former Dallas Cowboys receiver also spent time responding to Twitter users who questioned his stance; Timothy Caulfield, a research director and professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, told him the NFL’s rules “100% make sense” and “follow the science and are good for the sport & players.”
“I get tested every day for covid and get a negative test but I still have to keep distance from people who are ‘vaccinated’ when apparently if they get it they can’t pass it to anyone,” Beasley responded. “How does that make sense to you?”
He also declined to disclose what his reservations regarding the vaccine are, calling his choice a personal decision.
“You still think I’m trying to persuade people to not do it. I don’t care if you’re vaccinated or not,” he responded to another user. “This isn’t about what is dangerous. Football is dangerous I still play it. I’m just saying I shouldn’t be treated differently because of it just So I’ll do what you want me to.”
COVID-19 vaccinations have been a controversial topic throughout the NFL and specifically within the Bills organization. Last month, general manager Brandon Beane was contacted by the NFL after responding to a hypothetical scenario during a radio interview in which he said he would cut an unvaccinated player to return his team to normalcy.
Quarterback Josh Allen, during a podcast appearance in March, said he was still undecided about whether he would get the vaccine, saying he would do what the statistics told him was the right move. He declined to disclose his vaccination status or comment on it any further during a call with local reporters after a Bills offseason practice.
In May, Bills coach Sean McDermott said he was “concerned” about the divisive nature of the COVID-19 vaccine and the impact it could have on the team, but when asked about it Tuesday, he said the Bills were “moving in the right direction.” Both Beane and McDermott are vaccinated, with the latter making it clear he wanted to see his players do the same.
“We feel like we know that in our country and around the league where and how things are improving. And to me, there’s a direct correlation to people getting vaccinated,” McDermott said. “Again, I would like to continue to see our team move in that direction. Continue to move an increased number of people that are getting vaccinated … It’s good to have the guys here. But I think the reality of our situation is that now — but also for sure come the fall — training camp protocols are going to continue to be enforced, in particular for those who are unvaccinated as it relates to the masking and the different things that are in place.
“Just trying to be real about it and make sure people understand what normal is gonna look like, in particular for those who are unvaccinated come the fall.”
Beasley is entering his third season with the Bills after registering 82 catches for 967 yards in 2020 — both career highs. The stretch he put together in Buffalo is statistically the best two-year stretch of his 10-year career.