A significant number of New England Patriots players have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to head coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick wouldn’t share specifics about the team’s vaccination rate but said “most” of his players have received their shots.
“I don’t know (exactly how many have),” Belichick said Tuesday in his first virtual news conference of training camp. “Quite a few of them. Most of them, probably. But whatever the protocols are, we’ll follow them. Those are individual decisions. There are categories for everybody, so wherever they fit, they fit.”
The NFL does not require its players to be vaccinated, but teams with high vaccination rates will have a distinct competitive advantage this season.
If at least 85 percent of a given team’s players are vaccinated, that club will be allowed to hold in-person meetings, among other benefits. And if an unvaccinated player triggers a COVID outbreak that results in a canceled game that cannot be rescheduled, his team would forfeit and be subject to financial penalties.
The league also relaxed many of its restrictions for vaccinated players, giving them more freedom both inside and outside of their team facilities. Unvaccinated players must follow the same strict guidelines put in place for the 2020 season, including daily COVID testing.
The NFL is mandating vaccinations for all coaches and non-player football staffers. Cole Popovich, the Patriots’ co-offensive line coach in 2020, left New England’s staff before training camp, reportedly over a vaccine dispute.
Belichick confirmed Tuesday that Carmen Bricillo will coach the team’s O-line this season. Bricillo shared that role with Popovich last year after serving as a coaching assistant in 2019.
“From a staff standpoint, Carm will be coaching the offensive line,” Belichick said. “These are all things that play off the protocols from the league and so forth, so I’m not going to get into that any further. It is what it is.”
Patriots veterans reported for camp Tuesday. The team’s first practice is set for Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. ET.