Minnesota Vikings' Mike Zimmer: Unvaccinated face tough time

EAGAN, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that players who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine will "have a hard time during the season" given the additional protocols they will have to follow.

The NFL released its new COVID-19 protocols for the 2021 season on Wednesday. Vaccinated players will only have to get tested once every 14 days, whereas unvaccinated players will be severely restricted within and outside the team's facility and face five-figure fines for violating protocols.

"They are going to be wearing masks, they're going to have to social distance, they'll have daily testing," Zimmer said. "They won't go home for bye week and have to come back here and test every day. When we go on the road, they won't be able to go out to dinner with anybody. They'll have to travel on buses differently and travel on planes differently, so a lot of meetings will be virtual like we have here."

Zimmer's comments come one day after three Vikings players -- Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen and Sheldon Richardson -- all said they have not received the vaccine. Quarterback Kirk Cousins would not disclose his vaccination status when asked Wednesday, while linebacker Eric Kendricks said he has been fully vaccinated.

Roughly half of the league's players have been vaccinated, according to a report from The Washington Post on Tuesday. Additionally, 16 teams have more than 50 of their 90 players vaccinated and three have 70 or more vaccinated, according to the Post's report

Minnesota held a virtual meeting with Dr. Allen Sills ahead of minicamp on Wednesday morning where the NFL's chief medical officer informed players about the safety of the vaccine and why players should be vaccinated, even if they've already had COVID-19.

"He talked to them about why they should, even if they have had COVID, still get vaccinated because your antibodies are way off the charts," Zimmer said. "You're going to be safer if it comes back again. One of the players asked about if they would need to get a booster shot at some point. There is a lot of those things and we are just trying to educate those guys."

Zimmer also noted how different the team camaraderie aspect will be for players who choose not to be vaccinated.

"It's not only the safety part of being vaccinated, but as far as being a part of a football team," Zimmer said. "For me, for instance, I don't have to wear a mask. We had a staff meeting the other day and everybody is in the same room. We can sit there and talk as opposed to doing this like we're doing here. I know you guys know, I don't like doing all of the media stuff, but I would much rather be sitting in a room talking to you then up at this camera and looking down at you."