As he sat on a podium in front of a handful of reporters following the first day of training camp, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman quickly gazed across the room.
With first-year coach Nick Sirianni seated to his left side, Roseman then took questions for 30 minutes. But before he handled any football-related topics, Roseman discussed the team’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, which he said is currently more than 90%.
“Just from an administrative purpose, we’re really excited about where we are,” Roseman said. “All we’re trying to do is educate them. We understand it’s a very personal decision. They’re doing a great job with it, as is our medical team. We continue to give information to the other guys.”
Roseman said the 90% rate includes players who are either fully vaccinated or who’ve started the vaccination process, an indication that at least 90% of players have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
During spring workouts, players and coaches were noncommittal when asked about the team’s vaccination rate or individual vaccination status. However, the Eagles are now in an ideal position with 1.5 months remaining until the beginning of the regular season.
“We’ve educated our guys on everything,” Sirianni said. “The decision is up to them. Everything we focus on from there is football.”
Unvaccinated players are subjected to stricter restrictions, according to the NFL’s latest COVID-19 policy. Some of those restrictions include needing to wear a mask inside the facility, weight room and during practices. Unvaccinated players aren’t able to sit in the same common areas as vaccinated teammates and they are prohibited from using certain equipment, such as the sauna and steam rooms.
The league recently informed teams that if a game cannot be rescheduled during the 2021 season because of a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will be forced to forfeit and also be credited with a loss for playoff seeding.
“It’s a personal decision, as adults and grown men,” Eagles defensive lineman and team captain Fletcher Cox said.
A couple of players, including cornerbacks Darius Slay, Shakial Taylor and Nate Meadors and offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark, were seen either wearing or holding a mask during the stretch period at the beginning of practice. Slay has previously shared his stance against receiving the vaccine across his social media accounts.
Last month, Slay posted to his Instagram story: “No vaccine, no bye week lol like wtf” with a thumbs down emoji.
Within the same hour that Roseman declared the team was 90% vaccinated, former Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz sported a mask while telling reporters in Indianapolis that “vaccines are a personal decision.”
Wentz’s vaccination status should pique Philadelphia’s interest considering his health will factor into the team’s draft compensation. During the Wentz trade, the Eagles received a 2022 conditional second-round pick from the Colts. If Wentz plays 75% of snaps this upcoming season or if he plays 70% and the Colts make the playoffs, Indianapolis’ second-round selection will transfer to a first-round selection for the Eagles.
Back at the NovaCare Complex, Eagles quarterback and presumptive starter Jalen Hurts confirmed he is fully vaccinated.
“That’s your choice,” 12-year veteran Brandon Graham said. “When you see what vaccinated can do and what unvaccinated can’t do, you start to lean on ‘let me get vaccinated.’ Because you don’t want to be able to not use certain things, you want to be able to lift with your teammates. Last year, that was the toughest part for [former coach] Doug Pederson because he was good at being together. That six feet [social distancing] was kind of messing with him a little bit.
“As a team, you can’t have that bond when you’re not able to do certain stuff together. Hopefully we get to 100%.”
The vaccine discussion is more personal for Graham. Before the 2020 season, the Eagles defensive end revealed two of his aunts died from COVID-19, while another one of his aunts was diagnosed with the disease but later recovered.
“We’re in this time of our lives where we’ve got to make sure we’re safe,” Graham said. “For me, I did it for my kids because I didn’t want to bring it in the house. [COVID-19] is nothing to play with.”