Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera is doing his part to help encourage his players to get the coronavirus vaccine, but work still needs to be done for his hope to get the entire roster inoculated to come true.
On Tuesday evening, Rivera had an immunologist and lead vaccine researcher from Harvard, Kizzmekia S. Corbett, speak to the players, giving them a forum to ask questions about the vaccine and debunk myths about it.
The meeting was mostly a success, as Rivera said multiple players either chose to get vaccinated or are scheduling their vaccination because of it. But, the conversation was also met with some skepticism as well. Pass rusher Montez Sweat said Wednesday he "wasn't a fan" of the vaccine, saying "I don't see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID."
Asked if he will try to sway Sweat's opinion on the vaccine, Rivera said he will continue to encourage all his players to get vaccinated but made it clear Thursday that he respects every player's individual opinion on the matter.
"I'll give him my two cents," Rivera said. "But at the same time, I have to make sure he understands that I respect him for his own opinion. I'm not going to go at anybody and denigrate them because they have a difference of opinion. The young man has got to make his own decision."
When asked what his hesitancy for getting the vaccine was on Wednesday, Sweat said he wanted to know more facts about it first. While Sweat was outspoken about his lack of desire to get vaccinated right now, he's far from the only player in Washington's locker room to feel that way. Earlier this week, Rivera said that only about 50 percent of the roster has been vaccinated.
"I have thought, though, knowing that these are young men -- and to a degree, they're learning, they're understanding, they're trying to gather as much information as they can -- some of them have their reasons," Rivera said. "I've gone around and talked to a good number of our players. I've listened, heard both sides and I've heard reasoning."
Rivera, who has been vaccinated for months, was the first in his family to receive the vaccine. Even after receiving his vaccine, Rivera said he went about four weeks practicing protocols with them before his wife and daughter were vaccinated.
"The thing we have to be careful about is there are a lot of reasons [why some are hesitant]," Rivera said. "I know for me personally how I feel about things because of my situation and circumstances, I had a reason to do what I did. I had a reason to get vaccinated early. I was immune deficient. Once I was eligible, I went and got it."
Rivera's goal is still for his entire roster to get fully vaccinated so they can reach herd immunity. The NFL, like other major American sports leagues, is expected to lighten protocols during the season if a certain number of players are fully vaccinated.
But, if Washington is unable to reach that threshold that it takes to loosen up the protocols, Rivera says he and the team will deal with whatever the repercussions are.
"Honestly, I would hope and like our guys to get vaccinated so we can get heard immunity," Rivera said. "But like I said, we just have to respect everybody's desires. If that puts us in a position where we're going to have to go through some protocols, then so be it. We'll do so together as a team."