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Unvaccinated Carson Wentz says the league’s protocol “keeps me up at night”

Mike Florio and Chris Simms analyze the state of a weak AFC South, as the Colts and Titans get set for a two-horse race for the playoffs.

Despite the lack of transparency when it comes to which players are and aren’t vaccinated, circumstances will sometimes reveal the truth. For Colts quarterback Carson Wentz, the truth -- thanks to a five-day absence after being deemed a close contact with someone who tested positive -- is that he’s not vaccinated.

Meeting with reporters on Thursday, Wentz took various questions regarding the vaccination issue. He used the phrase “trust me” on numerous occasions; an ironic crutch because, frankly, it’s impossible to trust an unvaccinated quarterback to be available for any and every game of the coming season.

“Trust me, it is a personal decision,” Wentz said as to his decision to not be vaccinated. “I’m not going to go in depth on why, but I will say it’s a personal decision for me and my family. And I respect everybody else’s decision and I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that’s not the world we live in. Not everyone is going to equally view things the same, but yeah no one really knows what’s going in someone else’s household and how things are being handled so, it’s a personal decision. That’s where I’m at on it, and with the protocols and everything the way they are, it’s really for us it’s all about understanding them clearly and making sure we are dotting our i;s, crossing our t’s, all those things so that we can avoid what happened this week with a couple of us.”

Wentz was asked whether his five-day close-contact absence has changed his thinking.

“Trust me,” he said. “Trust me, I’ve weighed a lot of things and I’ve factored in everything. And I know what’s at stake. I know all those things. And like I said, it’s just where I’m at, where I’m at with my family, and that’s why just understanding the protocol, to truly try everything we can to avoid what happened this week. It is what it is. You know, whether we agree or not with the protocol and the rules, they’re in place, so we’ve gotta honor them as best as we can so we can avoid what happened.”

He didn’t rule out changing his position. Until he does, however, he’ll continue to be at risk for another five-day absence or, if he tests positive, a minimum absence of 10 days.

“Yeah, this has been a fluid process for me this whole time,” Wentz said. “And you know that’s kind of where, as a family, we’ve just been monitoring everything we can, letting it play out as long as we can, and this is where we’re at today. And things could change, you know, in the next coming weeks. So who knows? Who knows where this world’s going? Who knows where the protocol is going, if that’ll change. I’m not gonna act like I’m an expert on a vaccine or a virus or any of that, so that’s just where we’re at right now.”

Wentz has learned more and more about the protocol as time has passed, with his recent absence being the most stark lesson.

“Trust me, there’s -- it’s been an ongoing process for me, for my family, and so it’s -- this happening this week, it kind of woke us up on really the protocol and just understanding how this happens and just understanding some of the gray areas with the league and making sure we know what’s at stake and how to avoid it,” Wentz said. “But yes, like I just mentioned, it is a fluid process and I’m weighing every pro and con out there. And it keeps me up at night. There’s a lot of things that go on inside my head, but it’s where we’re at right now.”

He said that coach Frank Reich and G.M. Chris Ballard have not pushed him and other unvaccinated players to get vaccinated. “They tell us the facts, they tell us their opinion, but there’s no pressure,” Wentz said. “There’s no -- but it’s said in the right way. Because we know what’s at stake. We know as a team where we want to go, and we know some of these things can hinder if we let them. That’s why we’ve got to do everything we can to not let it be a distraction and to be on top of it with the protocol and everything.”

He knows, given the protocol, he could easily miss a game over not being vaccinated.

“Trust me, it would be unfortunate,” Wentz said. “And so it’s something that, it’s unfortunate that that’s kind of where we’re at, but I get it. There’s rules and protocols and like I said earlier, whether we agree or not, I’m fortunate enough to do this and I’m employed by the NFL. So at the end of the day, we’ve gotta honor what they say, and so let’s hope that doesn’t happen. And we’ll use this hopefully as a lesson learned to avoid everything we can, and you know try and be out there and be available every weekend.”

The issue obviously will be a distraction for teams with unvaccinated players. That’s still not enough to convince Wentz and his unvaccinated teammates to relent.

“I think with this pandemic, even going back to last year, there’s a lot of unknown,” Wentz said, “and like I said, I’m not going to act like an expert in it, but there’s a lot of unknown that I think everyone handles it differently but being here, within the NFL, with the protocol and trying to be available like I just said, yeah, you definitely -- you do want to go above and beyond and make sure you’re smart with what you do not only in this building, but outside this building. And just understanding. Both to be available but also from our health standpoint everyone, you know, has a different approach and opinion on their health with this matter. So there’s a lot of things that unfortunately are taking our attention away from football so we try and keep it as much as we can about football here and just make sure we’re on top of those things in and out of the building, just so we can be available and be healthy.”

So what lesson did Wentz ultimately learn from his five days at home?

“I learned it can be tough to avoid some close contacts, and just really trying to further understand and you know push the league to just make it clear to us, which has been you know addressed, just so it’s clear to us how we can avoid those situations,” he said. “And you know I could dive into the details but I don’t need to. I don’t think anybody made any big mistakes. It was just kind of the way it unfolded, and so we learned from it, and we’ll do everything we can to avoid it going forward.”

If they can’t, the Colts could have Wentz and/or other key players absent for one or more games. In the NFL, where one game can be the difference between 10-7 and 11-6, that one game could be enough to pull the plug on a playoff appearance and a potential Super Bowl run.

Regardless of the broader societal health benefits of players like Wentz getting vaccinated (along with the important message it sends to his fans), that’s what makes this anything but a “personal decision.” It’s a conscious and deliberate choice to assume a significant risk that he may not be available to play for reasons unrelated to his foot or any other injury. He’s risking that he won’t be available for one or more games. His absence from one or more games could turn a Colts victory into a Colts defeat. And that one extra defeat could keep the Colts home for the postseason.

Ultimately, Wentz’s personal decision means he can’t personally be trusted to play every week in 2021.

Trust me.