Cleveland Browns players need to remember Covid-19 impact on 2020

Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski before an NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]Browns 31
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski before an NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]Browns 31 /
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 27: Ja’Marcus Bradley #84 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Marcus Maye #20 of the New York Jets in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2020 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

What might happen with Covid in 2021?

Imagine Covid striking the Browns again in 2021, possibly costing a division title or a playoff game. This is like watching Earnest Byner’s painful fumble in slow motion.

Sportswriters and fans know exactly what is going to happen, frame by frame. The millionaire player is going to test positive before a critical game. Several other players will be taken down by contact tracing, and the Browns will be forced to play with practice squad players.

The heroic unvaccinated player will issue a tweet, more or less like the following, with the help of his agent (in fact, go ahead and cut and paste it if you like):

"“I would like to apologize to the Cleveland Browns organization, our fans and my teammates for not getting vaccinated and contracting Covid-19 through an act of God which no one could have foreseen. I truly had no idea that this would happen to me. Hopefully, I will soon be symptom free and be able to rejoin the team. In the meantime, I will be rooting for the practice squad players to save our season by beating the Steelers next week. I thank the Dawg Pound for being understanding of my personal vaccination rights and supporting me and my family in this difficult time. Go Browns!” — emergency apology, to be used in case failure to vaccinate botches the 2021 season"

This apology is not going to work. Yes, vaccination is a personal decision, but it does not allow the individual to escape the consequences of their decisions. If Covid-19 torpedoes the Browns season because of fearful athletes who were frightened of needles, those who were unvaccinated will not be easily forgiven.

It won’t be because some two-bit sportswriter like this one says something. Ha! I could only wish I had such influence. This article, or others like it, is not going to cause fans to hate the unvaccinated players if they blow the season, which seems not implausible based on the upsurge of Delta variant. No, but if you blow the season, that will be enough cause by itself to cause a lasting reaction.

If you think about it, what do you think the consequence will be if a preventable disaster ends the Browns playoff run? No, the players themselves will richly deserve whatever negative criticism is directed their way if their lack of availability causes an unnecessary loss.

On the other hand, if players are vaccinated, they can still become ill, but the symptoms are at a lower level and recovery time is shorter. It’s one thing if every precaution was taken, but it’s something else if the precautions were ignored.

MLB’s New York Yankees appear to be an example of a team that has been exposed to Covid-19, but which appears to be able to recover quickly because of having been vaccinated. According to CNN, eight of nine players infected were fully vaccinated, and eight of nine were asymptomatic. These players are starting to return to the active roster.

Almost certainly, something similar will happen to some NFL team this season and it will make a major difference whether they are vaccinated or not. This is very foreseeable given the extensive contact that NFL players have with the general public, especially if unvaccinated players attempt to lead the same type of lifestyle that fully vaccinated players lead. It would be a pity if the Browns are one of the teams that manage to self-sabotage themselves.