Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that unvaccinated players are going to have a much "harder time" during the 2021 season, coming a day after Vikings stars Adam Thielen and Harrison Smith said they haven't yet had the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Vikings met with Dr. Allen Sills, the chief medical officer for the NFL, this week. According to Zimmer, Sills informed the team about the value of getting vaccinated, providing background on how the vaccines were tested and approved – even noting that players how have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated because they'll "be safer if it comes back again."
It's unclear if Thielen or Smith plan to get the vaccine, with Smith saying: "They’re just giving us information to make our own decision with."
NFL players who don't get vaccinated will face another irregular season as the league's protocols are expected to be similar to what they were in 2020, when meetings were conducted virtually, masks were mandated and players and coaches underwent daily testing for the virus.
"We're just trying to educate these guys. They have to make their own decisions. The unvaccinated players are going to have a harder time in the season," said Zimmer.
"They're going to be wearing masks, they'll have to social distance, they'll have daily testing, they won't be able to go home for bye week, they'll have to come back here and test everyday, when we go on the road they won't be able to go out to dinner with anybody, they'll have to travel on buses differently, travel on planes differently, a lot of the meetings will be virtual ... not only the safety part of getting vaccinated, but as far as being part of a football team, it's just going to be so much easier."
Thielen missed Minnesota's game against the Carolina Panthers last season when he was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, which meant that he had either tested positive or potentially was exposed to a confirmed carrier.