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The four teams with vaccination friction have started 0-4

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Mike Florio and Chris Simms wonder if Washington's preseason COVID issues will carry over to the regular season and distract a team that is already facing an uphill battle this season.

Of the NFL’s 32 teams, four of them emerged as having specific and noteworthy internal friction over the question of whether and to what extent players will receive the COVID vaccine. Coincidentally, or not, those four teams have started the year a collective 0-4.

The Vikings lost to the Bengals, the Bills lost to the Steelers, the Colts lost to the Seahawks, and Washington lost to the Chargers. Three of the four were favored to win their Week One games.

It’s impossible to connect dots from Xs and Os to the vaccine question. It is possible to ask whether the angst and conflict coming from the vaccination agitation has caused the kind of distraction -- at any point -- that made these teams less prepared to win regular-season games, especially when facing teams that didn’t have that specific issue potentially clouding the effort to emerge from Week One with a 1-0 record.

None of the four team most widely connected to vaccination hesitation managed to win in Week One. In Washington, where coach Ron Rivera repeatedly pleaded publicly with players to get the vaccine given the compromised immune system resulting from his cancer battle of last year, the question becomes whether the team can avoid an 0-2 start with a short week, a backup quarterback, and the potentially lingering locker-room simmer from the vaccination question.

Again, there’s no way to prove that on-field struggles trace to the refusal by some players to get the in-arm protection against the virus. In a sport obsessed with minimizing distractions, however, those four teams have had an unlikely distraction, thanks to the vaccination issue.