You should be able to count the Chicago Bears among NFL teams with at least 85 percent of their players vaccinated.
“I believe we are (at 85 percent). Yeah. There are some coming in right now as we speak,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Tuesday. “But we feel pretty confident about that, yes.”
Pace was speaking at Halas Hall as veteran players were reporting to training camp so the number could still rise. The Bears’ entire coaching staff and support staff are fully vaccinated.
“I think what we did was we really went through this process and lived by the ‘encourage and educate’ and try to let them understand the why part,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said about encouraging his players to get vaccinated. “If they understand the why part, then it’s their choice. It’s their opinion. As we all see, everyone has different opinions on what they want to do.”
The NFL has given players plenty of incentive to get vaccinated, greatly relaxing COVID-19 restrictions at team facilities for those who are fully vaccinated.
“If we just tell them, ‘Hey, listen, for these different reasons, it can be a lot more convenient in the football world and for these reasons it can be good for you health-wise,’ and then they’ve gotta make their decision. And that’s kinda what we’ve done,” Nagy said.
In short, those who are fully vaccinated can operate at Halas Hall as they did during the 2019 season before the COVID-19 pandemic. They do not need masks and are not required to socially distance. Those who are not fully vaccinated, however, need to follow most of the same protocols as the 2020 season, including wearing masks and getting tested every day for COVID-19. An unvaccinated player who tests positive for COVID-19 automatically enters the protocol that keeps them away from the team for 10 days, while a vaccinated player can rejoin the team sooner with a series of subsequent negative tests.
Considering how important availability is in the NFL, that alone is a huge incentive for players to be vaccinated.
“Everything that everybody went through last year, in 2020, we were all a little bit inconvenienced because we had to. Now, with the new rules, if you get vaccinated, it’s different,” Nagy said. “So it is a little easier for you if you are vaccinated. But there’s so many different things that go into it, and we just, hey, listen, educate them, and then they make their own decision.”
Teams that have a greater percentage of vaccinated players will certainly have an advantage over teams with fewer vaccinated players and it appears the Bears are trending in the right direction.