Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws the ball prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Free agent QB Cam Newton now vaccinated

Veteran quarterback Cam Newton remains unsigned but not unvaccinated, NFL Network reported Saturday.

The former league MVP has been out of work since the New England Patriots released him on Aug. 31.

One impediment to his return had been his COVID-19 vaccination status. Players who aren’t vaccinated face a five-day waiting period between signing with a team and reporting for duty, not an ideal situation for teams facing an immediate need for a new quarterback.

Newton, 32, is reportedly looking to catch on with a new employer, but only in a starting role.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection went 7-8 as the Patriots’ starter last season, passing for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He rushed for 592 yards and 12 scores.

New England opted to go with first-round pick Mac Jones as the starting quarterback this season.

Newton has passed for 31,698 yards and 190 touchdowns and rushed for 5,398 yards and 70 TDs in 140 games (139 starts) with the Carolina Panthers (2011-19) and Patriots. He won Most Valuable Player honors and guided the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance during the 2015 season.

–Field Level Media

Apr 17, 2021; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  LSU Tigers quarterback Garrett Nussmeier (5) passes the ball against LSU Tigers defensive end Neil Farrell Jr. (92) during the second half of the annual Purple and White spring game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Vax proof or negative test needed to attend LSU games

Fans planning to attend LSU football games at Tiger Stadium are required to test negative for COVID-19 or show proof of vaccination status.

The policy will be in effect starting with the home opener in Baton Rouge on Sept. 11.

“With the significant threat presented by COVID-19 across the state of Louisiana due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, LSU will require all Tiger Stadium guests 12 years of age and older to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to entry. The decision comes after consultation with – and support from – Governor John Bel Edwards, LSU President William F. Tate IV, LSU’s Board of Supervisors, Tiger Athletic Foundation, and Director of Athletics Scott Woodward,” LSU announced Tuesday in a release.

There is no formal policy in place for Southeastern Conference football programs, but reports indicate commissioner Greg Sankey could recommend the policy throughout the league.

Masks are required for children ages 6 to 11 and “recommended” for all children.

“We have the best fans in college football, and we are doing everything we can to ensure their experience in Tiger Stadium this fall is safe and enjoyable,” athletic director Scott Woodward said. “When our fans arrive on Saturdays to cheer on the Tigers, they will have confidence that we have taken measures to mitigate their health risks. Our football team has reached 99.1% vaccination, and we are incredibly proud of them for doing their part to protect their team and their community. We are confident our fans will do the same, and I encourage all Tiger fans to receive vaccinations today.”

–Field Level Media

Aug 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Vikings bring in expert to talk to team about COVID vaccine

The Minnesota Vikings invited a renowned infectious disease expert to speak to the team about the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the Vikings’ ranking toward the bottom of the NFL in player vaccinations, the presumed goal of the visit by Dr. Michael Osterholm on Monday was to convince players that the vaccine is safe.

“Some of the questions that were asked are things that you hear on the internet and things like that,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Monday. “Like he said, he was going to be 100 percent honest; if he knows the answer he’ll tell it, if he didn’t know it, he would tell it as well. I think he did a terrific job and hopefully it helps.

“I just care about these players and I care about their families. That’s my main reason. If they miss a game because they get COVID, so be it. But I don’t want them to get sick, I don’t want their families to get sick, their kids to get sick or my grandkids to get sick,” Zimmer said.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is the highest profile Viking to not get vaccinated. He missed time during training camp in quarantine after rookie quarterback Kellen Mond tested positive for COVID-19.

Former offensive line coach Rick Dennison was reassigned to senior offensive advisor after he refused to get vaccinated. Dennison was also the team’s run game coordinator the past two seasons.

The NFL requires that all Tier 1 staff, which includes coaches, scouts, equipment managers and team executives, to be fully vaccinated. Players do not have the same rule but will be under restrictive COVID-19 protocols if they are unvaccinated.

–Field Level Media

Saints fans cheering during the NFC Championship playoff football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.

Report: Saints fans will need vax or negative test to enter Superdome

The mayor of New Orleans is preparing to announce that proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test will be required to enter indoor venues in the city — including the Caesars Superdome for Saints games.

NOLA.com reported that Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s mandate could come as soon as Thursday afternoon.

With coronavirus vaccines now widespread across the U.S. and Canada and the delta variant beginning to spread, some professional sports teams are resorting to updated pandemic-era rules.

The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets said Wednesday that all fans who wish to attend games will need to provide proof of vaccination.

Both the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles announced that fans will be required to wear masks to access the indoor portions of their respective stadiums this season.

The Saints are scheduled for two home games during the preseason, Aug. 23 against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Aug. 28 against the Arizona Cardinals. They open the regular season Sept. 12 at home against the Green Bay Packers.

–Field Level Media

May 26, 2021; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) passes the ball during an OTA at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson won’t commit to vaccination

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson said he hasn’t made a decision about the COVID-19 vaccine, despite two bouts with the virus.

Jackson addressed his stance on vaccinations on Monday after practice — just his third eligible day of the summer. He tested positive on July 28 at the start of training camp and sat out the first week of practices. He also missed the Thanksgiving Day game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020.

“I just got off the COVID list,” Jackson said Monday in response to a question about getting vaccinated. “I got to talk to my team about this and see how they feel about it. Keep learning as much as I can about it. We’ll go from there.”

In his session with the media, reporters asked more than once if he’d get the shot.

“I feel it’s a personal decision,” Jackson said. “I’m just going to keep my feelings to my family and myself. I’m focused on getting better right now. I can’t dwell on that right now … how everybody else feels. Just trying to get back to the right routine.”

Jackson is 30-7 in three seasons as the Baltimore starter, completing 64.0 percent of his passes for 7,085 yards with 68 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He has also rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two years, raising his career total to 2,906 rushing yards with 19 scores.

The Ravens and Jackson, 24, are working on a long-term deal before he becomes eligible for free agency in 2023. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, also a member of the NFL’s 2018 draft class, signed a six-year extension worth $258 million on Friday.

Baltimore opens the preseason on Saturday against the visiting New Orleans Saints. The Ravens open the regular season against the host Las Vegas Raiders on Sept. 13.

–Field Level Media

Jul 29, 2021; Richmond, VA, USA; Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young (99) wears a face mask as he retrieves his jersey during training camp at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Cennter. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

NFLPA president JC Tretter rips NFL’s ‘scarlet marking’ for unvaccinated

Unvaccinated players must mask up as part of the NFL protocol on COVID-related player safety. It’s the next step of demarcation ruffling the feathers of Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, the NFL Players Association president.

Tretter said Thursday he is entirely against forcing unvaccinated players to wear wristbands that denote vaccination status.

“It’s a nonsensical idea,” Tretter said. “They say they need a differentiator between vaccinated and unvaccinated players. We already have a differentiator. The unvaccinated players need to wear masks. No other sports league uses any sort of scarlet marking or helmet decal or wristband, because they know it’s not necessary and the teams know who’s vaccinated, who’s not vaccinated.”

The Browns are one of the NFL teams who opted not to have their unvaccinated players wear wristbands. The stipulation has not been agreed to by the NFLPA and NFL, which bargained over several other elements within the safety protocol.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said he will not “divide the team over this issue” and Tretter plans to continue fighting to give players on other teams the option of removing the bands.

“So what it really comes down to is the NFL wanted to put a policy in place to try to shame unvaccinated players publicly about their status and make that known to everyone on the field,” Tretter said. “It shouldn’t be the case because it’s unnecessary. We all know who’s vaccinated and who’s not, and it doesn’t need to be a scarlet marking on people’s helmets or wrists.”

The NFL said in a COVID-19 update on Thursday that 87.9 percent of players in training camps are vaccinated. Per the league, 19 teams have a vaccination rate over 90 percent.

The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Football Team remain among the least-vaccinated teams.

–Field Level Media

Feb 7, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette (28) runs the ball against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland (21) in the second half during Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs RB Leonard Fournette says he is learning, mulling vaccine

In a since-deleted tweet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette said Thursday that he didn’t want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Vaccine I can’t do it…..,” he wrote.

On Sunday, after the first practice of training camp, he said he is still learning about the vaccine and mulling it over.

The Buccaneers, who begin the defense of their Super Bowl championship on Sept. 9 against Dallas, are bringing in doctors to answer players’ questions.

“I’m going to talk to them, and just see what’s the best decision, for myself and for the team,” Fournette said.

Vaccinated players and staff members won’t be subject to wearing a mask at team facilities or while traveling, won’t have physical distancing rules and are allowed to visit with friends and family during travel. They won’t be subject to daily COVID-19 testing, either.

Players who violate the COVID-19 protocols could be subject to a fine of $14,650 per infraction.

Fournette said he was willing to live by the regulations if chooses not to be vaccinated but will listen to the information.

“I just don’t know too much about it,” Fournette said after the team’s first training camp practice.

The fourth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fournette was a key contributor for the Buccaneers in their playoff run in 2020.

Fournette, 26, totaled four touchdowns in four postseason games, including one in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. He had a franchise-best 448 scrimmage yards in the playoffs and led the team in rushing yards (300), rushing touchdowns (three), scrimmage touchdowns (four) and receptions (18).

He signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Buccaneers on Sept. 2, 2020, just days after he was waived by the Jaguars. He had a career-worst regular season in 2020, finishing with just 600 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns in 13 games before his sterling playoff run.

–Field Level Media

Nov 3, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; A general view of a Minnesota Vikings helmet during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Vikings OL coach Rick Dennison out after refusing vaccine

Veteran NFL assistant coach Rick Dennison has left his job with the Minnesota Vikings after refusing to be vaccinated for COVID-19, ESPN reported Friday.

Dennison, 63, had been offensive line coach/run game coordinator for two seasons. He is believed to be the first position coach to leave a team over vaccine regulation.

The NFL is requiring that all Tier 1 staff, which includes coaches, scouts, equipment managers and team executives, be fully vaccinated. Players do not have the same rule, but will be under restrictive COVID-19 protocols if they are unvaccinated.

ESPN said the Vikings promoted Dennison’s assistant, Phil Rauscher, to fill the vacated position and added Auburn special-teams analyst Ben Steele to the staff.

Dennison played nine seasons at linebacker for the Denver Broncos before beginning his coaching career in 1995 as a Broncos offensive analyst. He served as offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Broncos, and designed the offense that Peyton Manning led to a victory in Super Bowl 50.

The Vikings report to training camp on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

Jul 22, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA;  Boston College Eagles  coach Jeff Hafley speaks to the media during the ACC Kickoff at The Westin Charlotte. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Boston College helped player transfer after he declined vax

The entire Boston College Eagles football team is vaccinated against COVID-19, coach Jeff Hafley said, in accordance with a school policy requiring inoculation.

One player who was set to return to the Eagles this season refused the vaccine and Hafley’s response was to help that player find a new program and transfer.

“I never gave my opinion about it,” Hafley said Thursday during ACC media day. “I just said, ‘This is the school rule. If you don’t want to get it, I’ll support you.’ We had one player who didn’t want to get it, and we helped find him a new home.”

Hafley kept that ex-Eagles player anonymous.

ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said this week that more than half of the league’s 14 full-time programs have already reached the suggested 85 percent mark for player vaccinations.

That 14 didn’t count Notre Dame, a part-time member for football. But like Boston College, Notre Dame is mandating that all its students be vaccinated in order to return to campus.

Hafley’s first season as Boston College’s head coach coincided with the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season. Before taking the job, Hafley was Ohio State’s secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator in 2019 and held a number of other NFL and collegiate assistant roles.

–Field Level Media

Bills receiver Cole Beasley celebrates with the crowd after Buffalo beat the Ravens in the AFC divisional game.

Jg 011620 Bills 7

Cole Beasley talks with union after virus protocols complaints

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley said on social media Friday that he has spoken with the NFL Players Association about his issues with the NFL’s new virus policies.

Beasley said he is not inoculated against COVID-19 and made it clear he did not want to receive the vaccine.

“Now we have spoken and are working through it,” Beasley wrote in a reply tweet to a Bills reporter. “From what Ive (sic) been told these are guidelines for preseason and it’s nothing final.”

On Thursday, Beasley aired complaints about the league’s updated COVID-19 protocols for training camp and the preseason, which allow for fully vaccinated players to return mostly to how things were done before the pandemic but keeps stricter guidelines in place for unvaccinated individuals.

Beasley, 32, called the NFLPA a “joke” and asked if anyone will “fight for the players.”

The NFL is not requiring players to get vaccinated. However, its new protocols may encourage some to do so due to the lesser restrictions.

Unvaccinated players will still need to be tested daily for COVID-19 and must keep wearing masks while in team facilities. They cannot interact with anyone outside of their team’s traveling party when on the road. And they will still be required to quarantine if deemed a close contact of a high-risk COVID exposure.

For vaccinated players, these guidelines will be removed or loosened.

Other NFL players, including Washington edge rusher Montez Sweat and Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold, have expressed skepticism or uncertainty about whether to receive the vaccine.

The three vaccines authorized in the U.S. have all been deemed safe by the CDC and have high levels of efficacy.

“I’m not going to take meds for a leg that isn’t broken,” Beasley wrote in another post Friday. “I’d rather take my chances with Covid and build up immunity that way.”

Beasley set career highs with 82 catches and 967 receiving yards in 2020, his second season in Buffalo after playing seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.

–Field Level Media