NFL

Jimmy Graham voices frustration with new NFLPA testing rules

LAKE FOREST, IL - JULY 29: Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham (80) looks on in action during the Chicago Bears training camp on July 29, 2021 at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, IL. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham took to Twitter to blow off some steam about the new NFLPA rules for Covid-19 testing. With the Delta variant spreading rapidly, the league has been working to adjust its policies. The new rules now mandate that all players should take Covid tests daily. Even though greater than 90% of players have received vaccines, Covid-19 has continued to spread. Research shows that the Delta variant can infect and spread via vaccinated individuals. The NFL is attempting to stop the spread so that they can have a season. However, Graham apparently feels slighted by the system.

“I’ve done everything I’ve been asked and now Feel like I’m being punished. If I miss a test that your proposing everyday I’ll be fined a max 150k! How does this make sense. How’s the punishment 100x worse than last year and I’m vaccinated now?”

Jimmy Graham

The tweets

Graham’s first tweet featured a memo from the NFLPA. In the image, the league includes information about the Delta variant and vaccine. It shows that 32 vaccinated players and staff tested positive for Covid in the first week of training camp. The memo concludes with the new policies stating that players should get tested daily. Graham’s caption was concise:

“Was basically forced into getting the vaccine. Now I’m just confused. @NFLPA”

Jimmy Graham

The first sentence refers to a previous NFLPA policy about potentially forfeiting games if unvaccinated players had a Covid outbreak. The memo said there would be no added week at the end of the season. If a team couldn’t reschedule, they would forfeit the game. Furthermore, both teams would lose their game checks.

Backlash against initial vaccination policy

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 08: Jimmy Graham #80 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field on October 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

That policy sparked outrage among players. They felt coerced into getting the vaccine, something that many people view as a personal decision. Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison refused to take the Covid vaccine; the team promptly fired him. The fight was that simple. Established players could maybe get away with not taking the vaccine. But any player or staff member worried about job security felt that the league forced them into getting the vaccine.

Arizona Cardinals star receiver Deandre Hopkins even seemed to tweet about potentially retiring. The now-deleted tweet read,

“Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL.”

Deandre Hopkins

Changing testing policies

The NFLPA is simply taking public and player safety measures with the new testing policies, but Graham can’t seem to accept that. Graham followed up his first comments with another tweet. He makes the point that he has complied with all league rules. However, he takes umbrage with the fact that the rules are constantly changing. Such is the nature of a pandemic. The virus itself is changing. Scientific knowledge about Covid-19 is increasing by the day. Infection and vaccination rates are subject to change by the day. So the rules will, too. And the science now says that vaccinated individuals may need to be tested.

Graham refers to a rule not shown in the memo with his second tweet. But he appears to say that the league has threatened up to a $150,000 fine for missing a test. While this is a high number, it is also not unreasonable. Testing is an inconvenience for Graham and the players, but it helps the NFLPA monitor and contain the spread of Covid-19. The fine is large, but then there is a simple solution. Don’t skip the testing. And the fact of the matter is that vaccinated players should be unlikely to test positive. The infection rate is significantly lower (hovering below 1%) for vaccinated individuals.

The response

When asked about the situation, Bears head coach Matt Nagy supported his player. Although he didn’t necessarily agree with Graham’s opinion, he supported his right to express it.

“All these guys have opinions and beliefs and I’m never going to criticize anybody for what their belief is. We all have it and we all have the ability to voice it. He has not come to me about any of that and Jimmy and I have a close enough relationship that if there is an issue that him and I would have that one-on-one.”

Bears head coach Matt Nagy on Jimmy Graham’s tweets

The league has not addressed the situation.

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