Last season, the Seahawks were the only team in the NFL to go the entire season without a player contracting COVID-19. This year, the team that handled a pandemic better than any other is nearly entirely vaccinated heading into training camp.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday following Day 1 of camp that 90 of 91 players—the Seahawks have an extra player this year with German linebacker Aaron Donkor coming to the team as part of the NFL International Player Pathway Program—are either fully vaccinated or will be soon having received at least one shot.
"By the time we get everybody processed, we'll have one guy that isn't vaccinated, so we're really thrilled about that," Carroll said. "The guys made an extraordinary effort to take care of one another. The statement they made, particularly the guys who were uncertain about what to do, they made a decision based on their team as well as themselves. They wanted to do what was best for everybody and what would be safest for everyone, so that's a marvelous statement that our guys made."
Carroll added that to start off camp players will continue to test daily, which is more than is required by the NFL, just to make sure everyone is clear after traveling to Seattle.
"We came back to camp and everybody tested negative coming in the first two days," Carroll said. "We're going to test every day for the first five days here, basically to make sure that the return didn't catch anybody The league isn't asking us to do that, we're doing that on our own and our guys our willing to do that, so that's a good statement too. We're deep into fighting to get this thing done in the very best way possible. Our guys are willing to make the strides in the steps that they've got to make, and the sacrifices and whatever. But they're doing it for the right reasons and they've got really good information that they're going on, and I'm really thrilled about that response."
"Personally, I think the (testing) once every 14 days is not enough and we're not going to do that. We're not doing that, that's not enough. We need to look after these guys. Really it's shifted in the last… that would have been fine two weeks ago, but things have shifted and we have to respond. I hear people griping that we're going back to masks and stuff. Well, that's because things change, and we're just responding to what's going on, and we're doing the same thing. We've been willing to do whatever we need to do. Of course we stay in compliance with the league, but we were willing to go beyond that."
As for the one player choosing not to get vaccinated, Carroll said, "He's got real personal reasons why that goes back to the family stuff, so we're going to take care of him throughout."
Having every coach and nearly every player vaccinated is important first and foremost because it keeps people safe, but there can also be a competitive advantage to it in 2021. A high vaccination rate makes it far less likely a team would have to play a game missing any players due to someone contracting COVID-19, and all but eliminates the possibility of a large outbreak that would lead to a forfeit. Having everyone vaccinated also means players can meet together with far fewer restrictions, have meals together, makes travel easier, and it gives players more freedom in their personal time.
"I'm thinking we do (have a competitive advantage)," Carroll said. "I'd hate to be in an 80-percent situation or something like that, I wouldn't want to be there. So we fought very hard to work with our guys to make sense of it—our players worked with our players to make sense of it and to make the commitment. I think it's a statement of a really committed smart group of guys that know.
"We were fortunate that we were so successful last year, our guys took a lot of pride in that, and so they've listened and they've made these choices together, and the leadership has done a really good job of impacting the younger guys in their thinking. We've got guys from all over the country. Everybody just flew in from everywhere—50 percent of our team just flew in here. And so that means they came through those airports, they came through everywhere, and particular states—Florida, Texas, some of the southern states, Arkansas, Mississippi, there's a lot of COVID running around there, and (Delta) variant thing is running wild. Fortunately our guys have done a marvelous job of managing their lives in their own personal bubbles, and we'll try to take care of them here."
Photos of the 12s as they return for the first day of Seahawks Training Camp, held on Wednesday, July 28 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Seahawks Training Camp is presented by Safeway.