Following a legendary Super Bowl parade, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are riding high heading into the 2021 NFL season. The defending champs return most of their starters from 2020. Now, they’re ready for another run at it. Head coach Bruce Arians means business, and his coaches and players have bought in. He said the Bucs are now 100% vaccinated, which signals that the team is all-in for 2021.
The Buccaneers are reportedly the second NFL team that is 100% vaccinated
The Atlanta Falcons were the first NFL team to announced that they’re fully vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19). Bruce Arians announced that the Buccaneers join their NFC South counterparts in being 100% vaccinated as well.
Arians is entering his third season as the head coach in Tampa Bay. He’s been an advocate for people getting the vaccine, but he also let the players know it was ultimately their choice.
Running back Leonard Fournette initially refused to get the vaccine. It wasn’t because he was entirely against it, though. “It’s something I wanted to do, trying not to put the team in harm’s way,” he said. “People still catching it, but it makes it a lot better to have the shot.”
The fifth-year running back emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated as it relates to the team. “We need every hand in here for these next couple of big games coming up, especially this opener,” Fournette said. “I’m just trying to be the best teammate I can be.”
From a football perspective, this is huge news. The Bucs are preparing to open the 2021 season against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. With the league’s new coronavirus restrictions, players and coaches can be significantly impacted if there’s an outbreak.
The NFL has strict protocols in place to protect against coronavirus
Multiple teams dealt with coronavirus outbreaks during the 2020 NFL season, most notably the Tennessee Titans. As the pandemic on ongoing, the league has made a conscious effort to protect the players, coaches, and fans.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed on the protocols for the 2021 regular season. Instead of every two weeks, players and staff will complete weekly testing, with an option for daily testing. Players who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated must undergo daily testing. Players and staff who have not received their results will be unable to enter any team facilities.
Fully vaccinated individuals are not considered high-risk close contacts. They would be held to daily testing for up to five days. Unvaccinated players still run the risk of missing games due to test results not being available. Face coverings are mandatory indoors and in weight rooms.
The NFL released a memo stating that any games that can’t be rescheduled during the 18-week season after a coronavirus outbreak will result in the team with the outbreak forfeiting the game. Players on both teams would be penalized and will not get paid for the lost game.
The league has made it clear that its stance is to promote health while still giving players and staff the right to choose.
The Buccaneers are trying to ensure they don’t cost themselves and games in 2021.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers open the season as favorites to win the NFC
Super Bowl LVI will take place on Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The Buccaneers open the 2021 season with the second-best odds to win the Super Bowl, behind the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tampa Bay has one of the NFL’s easiest schedules, with four of their games against the NFC East. The team returns most of their starters from the 2020 Super Bowl team. Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, and Chris Godwin were all free agents, and the front office made sure they returned to the Bucs.
Veterans Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski figure to have essential roles in the offense in year two. Rookies Jaelon Darden and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka have impressed in camp and the preseason, and could carve out roles in 2021.
Not to mention the ageless wonder Tom Brady is returning for his 22nd NFL season. Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, it’s not unfathomable for the Buccaneers to repeat as champs in 2021.