The Buffalo Bills had a vaccinated trainer test positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. As a result, four close contacts were sent away from the team facility.
Vernon Butler, Gabriel Davis, Star Lotulelei, and Cole Beasley will be away from the Bills for up to five days due to the NFL’s health and safety protocol. The Bills are hoping no other positives will show up in the coming days.
The trainer did not feel they had COVID when they tested positive per general manager Brandon Beane via video conference. Currently, they are fine and experiencing minor symptoms.
The Bills sent an additional two players home out of precaution by the Buffalo staff. Matt Milano and A.J. Klein were pulled as the league completed its interviews for who could be a close contact.
With interviews taking time, Butler was on the practice field Tuesday. Beane says they were surprised to see him as a close contact and would not have practiced if they knew. Butler did test negative on Tuesday.
“These are the rules that are currently agreed upon by the NFLPA and league office so we deal with it and now all understand them,” Beane said. “I’m glad it’s the preseason and hopefully we won’t have a lot of this in the regular season.”
The league safety protocols differ for those vaccinated and unvaccinated. Those who are vaccinated test once every two weeks while those who are not must test every day. Beane is unsure where the Bills vaccination rate stands with recent roster moves. Buffalo surpassed the 80% threshold at the start of training camp. He doesn’t know if they’re still above it.
The Bills had a push at the beginning of training camp to reach the threshold but rates have leveled off. There is encouragement some players could get it now that the Pfizer vaccine is FDA approved.
“As long as it’s not a mandatory thing, I think most teams are going to have a number of players (unvaccinated),” Beane said. “Maybe some players are waiting on that, I don’t have a specific number of players who said ‘hey if the FDA approves this I’ll get it’ maybe some will look at this and say ‘hey I don’t want to deal with it.’ I’m not sure all of them will, time will tell.”
Bills players have already seen how the virus could affect them and their team. Left tackle Dion Dawkins returned to the practice field last week after covid put him in the hospital for four days. Beane reiterated that no one is exempt and the virus doesn’t discriminate against anyone.
The four close contacts aren’t automatically out of playing in Saturday’s final preseason game against the Packers. The five-day clock from the close contact period could have started two-to-three days ago for some players. Beane did not specify which.
Until then, the Bills will hope there are no other positive cases within the organization.