Urban Meyer made a bit of a rookie mistake when discussing the NFL cutdown day last week.
As the team finalized its 53-man roster, the new Jacksonville Jaguars coach admitted to the media that the vaccination status of players was definitely factored in when deciding which players to cut and which players to keep.
The NFL Players Association threatened to investigate, and the Jaguars released a statement the next day that completely contradicted the head coach, who is brand new to the NFL after a long, successful run coaching in college.
You would have to say that Meyer’s honesty — albeit brief and accidental — was a breath of fresh air.
Of course, we already figured that the vaccination status of players factors into cuts. We just figured they would never tell us that is the case.
If you do not believe the fact that Cam Newton refused to get his shots played a major role in the veteran quarterback getting his walking papers last week, then you probably still have plenty of toilet paper left over from last March’s stockpiling.
If a roster spot comes down to Player A or Player B, and player B is unvaccinated, of course a team will go with Player A, if their talent is comparable.
Even pretend Dallas Cowboys general manager Jerry Jones gets that.
The reason for that is Player B has a heightened chance of completely derailing the team’s season simply by standing too close to the wrong person.
Not only can the player end up missing time for being a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, he can take out an entire position group. We saw that last year when the Denver Broncos had to play a game without a quarterback.
A good fantasy geek would not even take an unvaccinated quarterback. You do not want to wake up on Sunday morning to see your starter tested positive.
Predictably, the NFLPA jumped to the defense of the wrong players.
The union should be working to get all the players vaccinated. If it cannot accomplish that, then its attention should be turned to protecting the players who did get their shots from those who did not.
In this case, it really could be a life-and-death situation.
While the players with a vaccine are proven to be drastically less likely to die from contracting the virus, their pocketbooks can be hit hard because their teammates who, for whatever asinine reason, do not get vaccinated.
Actually, they can be hurt by knuckleheads who do not get vaccinated on the other team, too.
The NFL informed teams this offseason that it will not be juggling games around because of COVID outbreaks this season. If a game cannot be played — or be easily rescheduled — the game will go down as a forfeit. The team with the outbreak will take a loss.
Oh, and here is the kicker. Neither side will receive a paycheck for that week. If the NFL does not get its TV money for the game, then the NFL will not pay the players.
That is not fair to the players who took one for the team and got their shot. It also is not fair to the fans who laid down their money for a ticket or the NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV.
The NFL cannot mandate that players get the shot. That would have to be collectively bargained, and the players union has, time and time again, shown that it is incapable of doing the right thing for its players.
If the players will not get their shots, however, the NFL can cut them. Well, they can cut some of them.
The Minnesota Vikings cannot cut their unvaccinated rocket scientist of a quarterback in Kirk Cousins because his $21 million contract is fully guaranteed. But the Patriots can cut Newton and give him a small buyout. Small by NFL buyout standards, anyway.
Teams can also see the unvaccinated status of aspiring players as a sign that they really are not all that committed to making the team.
Sure, you will lift all them weights and take all those mysterious injections so you can play through pain, but you will not roll up your sleeve to try to help your team and the rest of humanity break out of this pandemic?
Then hit the bricks. You are not that good.
That is exactly what the Vikings did with offensive line coach Rick Dennison when he refused to get vaccinated. Dennison was regarded as one of the best in the business, too.
You better believe some college and high school players will get shown the door for the same reason. If you do not want to get the shot, then you better be all-conference.
Sure, high school football teams do not usually cut players. But basketball teams do.
Say you are a coach of a high school team you expect to contend this season. When the tryouts roll around in November, are you going to keep the borderline player if you know he has not been vaccinated?
Are you going to keep that extra senior if you know he or she could wipe the team’s title hopes because the player did not get the shot?
Not if you want to win.
We often hear the words “personal responsibility” from the anti-vaccination and anti-mask crowd, and, frankly, that is a load of garbage.
By their standards, we would leave it up to teachers to make the personal choice of whether or not to smoke around our children in class. We would leave it into the hands of the bus driver to make the choice of drinking a fifth of vodka before getting behind the wheel.
The thing is, when your “personal responsibility” threatens the health and safety of those around you, it is no longer a “personal responsibility.”
That is why we have DUI laws. It is why we cannot smoke inside public buildings and airplanes.
Do you want the guy standing in front of you in McDonald’s to be wearing pants? Yes, yes you do.
Believe it or not, there are people out there who would go the Full Monty in a fast-food restaurant if that decision was left up to their “personal responsibility.”
Thankfully, we all agreed on some easy-to-follow rules for living in a society.
Unfortunately, we cannot convince everyone to get vaccinated. We just have too much division that is being fed by some opportunist politicians and television news personalities.
We cannot force everyone to take one for the collective good of the team that is the human race.
But NFL teams sure can. They are just not supposed to publicly admit it.
Urban Meyer never got that memo.
— Bill Foley, who almost always wears pants at fast-food restaurants, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74