Vaccine Breakthroughs Disrupt College, Professional Football

By Neil Campbell | November 10, 2021
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
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Both college football and the NFL are facing COVID disruptions after vaccine breakthrough cases have sidelined players
A member of the California Golden Bears walks out of the tunnel for their game against the Stanford Cardinals at Stanford Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Palo Alto, California. While one fully vaccinated player for the Minnesota Vikings has been hospitalized with a COVID-19 breakthrough infection, Cal was forced to cancel a Nov. 13 game against the USC Trojans after positive PCR tests took out so many players that the team was unable to field a full roster. (Image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

A fully vaccinated player with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings has been hospitalized after contracting a breakthrough instance of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to the team.

Meanwhile, a California college club boasting a 99 percent fully vaccinated rate was forced to postpone a Nov. 13 game until Dec. 4 after a slew of positive PCR tests left the team without enough players to field a roster.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters on Nov. 10 that “One of our players that was vaccinated, he had to go to the ER last night because of COVID. It’s serious stuff.” 

While Zimmer did not name the player in question, on Twitter, ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin named the player as 30-year-old Dakota Dozier, citing an unidentified source.

Cronin said Dozier was sent to hospital the night prior “because he was having issues with breathing.”

Sports Illustrated noted Dozier was placed on the team’s COVID-19 reserve list several days ago on Nov. 5. The outlet quietly noted that four other players had been placed on COVID reserve from Nov. 4 to Nov. 8, including Garrett Bradbury, Ryan Connelly, and Timon Parris who are all registered as vaccinated.

The only unvaccinated player added to the list was Harrison Smith.

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When Zimmer was asked by reporters whether his players’ hospitalization was attributable to a vaccine adverse reaction or COVID, the coach gave an oblique response, “It was COVID. I’m not a doctor, but it was COVID pneumonia or something…he had a hard time breathing.”

According to the NFL’s Nov. 9 Testing Results and Vaccination Rates for the period of Oct. 17 to Oct. 30 published on the league’s website, 19,093 PCR tests were administered to 2,442 players and 4,090 personnel. 11 players and 24 staff tested positive. 

“Unvaccinated individuals are required to test daily. Vaccinated individuals are tested once a week and may volunteer for additional testing. Anyone identified as a high risk contact due to exposure will be tested daily, as appropriate,” notes the article.

29 Vikings, including Zimmer, are reported to qualify as close contacts to the afflicted individual.

Those who test positive are immediately isolated. While the unvaccinated are sequestered for 10 days, the vaccinated are permitted to roam free if they’re asymptomatic and can produce two negative PCR tests 24 hours apart.

The League says 94.4 percent of its players and “nearly 100%” of personnel have complied with vaccine mandates.

Cousins in contact

Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins has not said clearly whether he has accepted vaccination or not, according to a second Nov. 10 SI article, but told reporters he has been in contact with Dozier.

In August, Michigan-based Holland Hospital, cancelled a sponsorship with Cousins that had persisted since at least 2017 after the QB stated he was “at peace” with playing the season unvaccinated. 

ESPN reporter Kevin Seifert reported the statements in a Twitter thread after Cousins was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list because of close contact with rookie QB Kellen Mond, who tested positive. According to Seifert, Cousins said “the issue with his exposure to Kellen Mond was that the QB room was too small” and that “he has thought about surrounding himself with plexiglass in the QB room.”

Seifert reported that when Cousins was asked why he wouldn’t just take an injection instead, “He said the decision is personal and private.”

The reporter followed up his statements with a three second video of “Kirk Cousins, at practice, not surrounded by Plexiglas.”

In a statement as to why Cousins was cut, Holland Hospital said it was a matter of upholding the establishment narrative that vaccines are “safe and effective,” and humanity’s hope to defeat COVID-19.  

Holland stated they are “committed to providing accurate, timely health information and guidance based on guidelines from the CDC and medical experts,” and that “we must be certain that our communications about COVID vaccination are consistent and unequivocal.”

“While we acknowledge that each person is entitled to their own viewpoints, those who speak on our behalf must support messages that align with the hospital’s position on matters of vital importance to individual and community health.”

College controversy

PAC-12 granted the California Golden Bears’ request to postpone a Nov. 13 game against the USC Trojans until Dec. 4 after the Bears were unable to field a full roster because of a “slew of new positive cases,” according to the LA Times.

According to the article, PAC-12 forfeiture rules state that if a team can’t field a full roster the game is registered as a loss and a conference win for the opponent. However, in a show of sportsmanship, USC, who needs only two wins to qualify for a bowl, said they wanted to decide their fate fair and square.

“For them to not get to play would just be a crime…We want to play the game, and a forfeit is not the way to go and not the way you want to qualify for a bowl game. Our whole thing is fighting on and competing,” USC interim coach Donte Williams told the Times.

However, in a statement published on Twitter by Cal QB Chase Garbers, controversy surrounds whether the team should have been subjected to a testing regime at all and how both city and university officials handled the requirements, “City and University officials spoke to us today, [and] they really had no answers for us. They just beat around the bush and deflected our questions,” he said. 

“However, we did come away with that the testing last week was not mandated by anyone, it was highly recommended, meaning they should’ve never happened. But the university told us it was mandated, and we could not participate unless we tested.”

Garbers continued, “They will continue to test us this week. These tests also aren’t mandated but highly recommended so therefore we should have a choice on whether to take the test or not. But they are still forcing us to take the test with the threat of cancelling competition unless we test.” 

“Nothing was mandated but it was enforced as so with the threat of keeping players and staff out of competition until we tested and the same is for this week. We have worked too hard to have someone take this all away from us, it is wrong. We deserve answers and transparent communication.”

Action Network football correspondent Brett McMurphy replied, pointing out that Garbers “was among 24 players & 5 coaches unable to participate last week at Arizona because of Berkeley COVID protocols.”

Sacramento Bee reporter Joe Davidson noted that Garbers “and a host of other Bears players & coaches were COVID scratches at Arizona, a loss that halted Arizona’s 20-game losing streak.”

CBS Sports and Sirius XM Radio host Danny Kannel revealed, “What is happening at Cal football needs to be covered nationally. Despite being 99% vaccinated as a team they had 24 players and 12 coaches held out of their last game due to Covid protocols. It could cost them another game. The protocols are strictest in country.”

Cal Defensive Lineman Luc Bequette stated that the team was threatened with arrest unless they complied, “UHS told us we could be arrested for refusing to test as vaccinated individuals with no symptoms.” 

Bequette quipped, “If I understand correctly, I can go to San Francisco, steal a bunch of items in a Walgreens, and not be arrested. However, if I refuse a test in Berkeley, I can be…”

Spokesperson for Berkeley Public Health, Matthai Chakko, pinned the blame on the team in comments given to the San Francisco Chronicle while responding to the team’s misgivings that the 44 positive PCR tests “emerged in an environment of ongoing failure to abide by public health measures.”

Chakko was paraphrased as stating that “people in the program did not get tested when sick, stay home when sick or wear masks indoors.”

Cal Athletic Director Jim Knowlton took his players’ backs when he said, “I applaud our student-athletes for being vocal and wanting to know what’s going on,” but used the opportunity as a platform to bolster vaccine hysteria when he said that the only two unvaccinated members of the team’s 117 staff and personnel roster “have COVID.”