BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receivers Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, and defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Vernon Butler will all miss the next five days of practice after being deemed close contacts of a team trainer who tested positive for COVID-19.
All four tested negative for the virus Tuesday morning but must miss practice anyway, per the NFL's COVID-19 policy. The trainer is fully vaccinated.
Linebackers Matt Milano and A.J. Klein were also sent home Tuesday out of precaution, but they are eligible to practice Wednesday because the league did not designate them as close contact after conducting interviews.
Butler practiced Tuesday before the NFL turned its investigation around and designated him a close contact. Bills general manager Brandon Beane said the Butler decision took the team by surprise, otherwise they would have held him out of practice.
"This is our new normal. It's not the normal we like. But it's the world we're in," Beane said. "We're not exempt from any of this, as we've said many of times. We're going to try to keep our building as safe as we can. Everyone understands the protocols and the rules."
The NFL's policy, which heavily restricts unvaccinated players while allowing a return to near normalcy for vaccinated players, sparked criticism from Beasley in June, when he tweeted that he was not vaccinated and would continue to "live my one life like I want."
The NFL policies include more frequent testing, masks and social distancing in the team facility and during team travel for unvaccinated players. It also requires unvaccinated players to stay away from the team for five days if they are deemed close contacts with someone who tests positive for COVID-19; vaccinated players do not have to quarantine if they are a close contact.
It was the frequency of testing, however, that Beasley was most critical of: Unvaccinated players are tested daily under the policy governing preseason and training camp, while vaccinated players are required to test only every two weeks.
"It's common sense that if a vaxxed or unvaxxed player is tested less frequently, the likelihood of a player being pulled for COVID drops dramatically," Beasley said. "In regard to player safety, I'll conclude by saying we all want to be safe."
Beasley was the Bills' second-leading receiver in 2020, recording 967 yards on 82 catches -- both career highs. Meanwhile, Davis' seven receiving touchdowns was good for second most on the team during his rookie year last season.
Lotulelei opted out of the 2020 season, calling his decision the "best decision for myself and my wife and kids" considering the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
While no player who was sent home Tuesday tested positive, Bills left tackle Dion Dawkins missed the first two weeks of training camp and was hospitalized for four days with COVID-19.
Beane said Dawkins' experience left the team feeling helpless while he was away.
"We felt really bad for Dion. It's a tough situation," Beane said. "Normally, with our medical team, we can put our hands on him, but in that situation, we couldn't. Definitely our guys stayed in touch and helped him get himself to the hospital and get the care that he needed.
"We stayed up on him the best we could. It's definitely a tough thing when you see that. It does show you that athletes that are performing at a high level, no one is exempt. None of us. We're all in this together, and we've all got to try and fight through it."