Orchard Park, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Cole Beasley tweeted on Thursday that they’ve both been fined $14,650 by the NFL for mask violations inside the team facility.
NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero reported that McKenzie was seen by NFL officials on Wednesday without a mask on, and Beasley’s violation was caught on video on Tuesday.
Beasley took to Twitter to continue his public protest of the league’s rules when it comes to protocols for unvaccinated players.
“I was wearing a mask when I was in close contact with fully vaxxed trainer who tested positive and still got sent home,” Beasley wrote. “So what’s the point of the mask anyways? Meanwhile I’m here still testing negative and can’t come back. Make it make sense.”
McKenzie suffered a shoulder injury in practice on Tuesday, and Beasley was sent home because he was a close contact with a staff member who tested positive for Covid earlier this week. That started a five-day reentry process that he must go through before he’s allowed back inside the team’s facility.
With three receivers out of the mix right now for the Bills – Gabriel Davis was also found to be a close contact and is out for the five days – the Buffalo receivers room is significantly depleted. McDermott said it’s a frustrating situation, especially since there’s been an intensive effort on the Bills’ part to educate players on the vaccination.
“Very frustrating. There’s people’s livelihoods at stake in terms of, you know, people’s jobs … our performance is judged off of wins and losses or how well a person does ‘X’ or ‘Y’ and some of that is dependent upon other members of the team,” McDermott said on Thursday. “That’s why this is a team game. Being able to count on people is important.
McDermott continued by saying that if this were a regular season week and the Bills had this many players out at a certain position, it makes it harder to win games. That’s where a team suffers a competitive disadvantage, he said.
“That’s hard enough when it’s non-Covid years based on natural injuries that come up during week-to-week games and practices,” he said. “As of a year ago, it changed. This came on the scene and we continue to deal with it.”
Earlier this week, Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the Bills are at around an 80% vaccination rate as a team. That mark puts them in the bottom tier of the NFL, according to a Washington Post report this week that put the Washington Football Team above 90%, which ranked 23rd in the NFL.
McDermott, who thinks there’s plenty of evidence on why people should get vaccinated, said that his players have been educated “non-stop” since the start of training camp.
“It’s been absolutely non-stop,” he said. “They’ve been well educated. We’ve done our part to educate them, build awareness. We’re always educating on a lot of topics, this being one – and a major one. There’s not much room in our day left to do anything else other than educate on that and football. I can tell you we’ve done our part in educating.”
Beasley’s teammate Jon Feliciano tweeted before the start of practice on Thursday in support of the slot receiver. Feliciano is vaccinated but takes issue with the way unvaccinated people have been treated concerning the implemented protocols.
“We repeatedly see vax ppl get covid and get other ppl sick regardless of their vax status,” he tweeted. “If us vax ppl were getting tested more frequently (like pa asked) than we could avoid situations like we are in. Just because some ppl aren’t vax shouldn’t mean we treat them as a (piece of s***).”
McDermott said it’s just part of the day and age we live in that players take to social media to express themselves.
“I think part if that’s going to happen in our day and age of what’s out there in the world that a lot of these guys live in, and you live in and I live in quite frankly,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when players get fined. That being said, these rules have been agreed upon and in place and well communicated for some time.
“It’s important for us that we focus on A, being safe and healthy. That’s No. 1 and that’s always been No. 1. Then No. 2 is doing our best to stay focused on the goal and purpose of why we’re here, which is to win football games.”
The education process has been a long one for McDermott and Beane.
“It is tough. It’s frustrating. It’s challenging – however you want to say it,” McDermott said. “I can’t make the decision for them.”
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