Titans’ Vrabel good with player vaccinations entering camp

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans coach Mike Vrabel isn’t about to divulge the percentage of his players who have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus entering Wednesday’s start of training camp.

It doesn’t sound as if he’s sweating the numbers.

“I’m very comfortable with where (our percentages) are, and I think they’ve continued to go up and I would expect them to go up,” Vrabel said Tuesday, adding that all Titans coaches who will work with players have been vaccinated. “Guys are continuing to do research to educate themselves, to make a personal decision that, we’ve said all along, (is) a personal decision, and hopefully one they can come to that will help them and that will help this team.”

Nearly half of the league’s 32 teams have had more than 90% of their players vaccinated. There is a strong chance the league will eventually loosen COVID-19 restrictions on teams that reach the 85% vaccination threshold.

But no definitive changes have been announced by the NFL. So Vrabel pointed out that there remain two sets of protocols to follow — one for vaccinated players and one for unvaccinated. Those players will be identified within the Titans’ practice facility in order to comply with guidelines, but Vrabel said there’s no need to identify them on the practice fields.

“It’s being done so that inside the building, we can remind those players that aren’t (vaccinated) of, `Hey, this is where you have to sit. This is what you have to do,’” Vrabel said. “So that was the reason for that differentiation.”

In its continued efforts to encourage vaccinations, the NFL last week announced that forfeits — and the loss of game checks — were options if a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players meant the league was unable to find a date to reschedule a game within the season’s 18-week window.

“Those are things that we would deal with if they ever came up, and the (use of the) expanded practice squad and the roster,” Vrabel said. “We’re just going to try to prepare and educate them.”

The Titans had a major outbreak of the coronavirus last season.

Vrabel hopes talk will soon turn more to actual football matters as his team prepares to defend its AFC South title and seeks a sixth consecutive winning record. The Titans will welcome two-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones to practice on Wednesday after acquiring him in a trade from Atlanta last month.

Free-agent signing Bud Dupree (physically unable to perform list) and first-round draft pick Caleb Farley (non-football injury list) will not be among the Titans practicing.

“You have to build a foundation that’s going to stand up over time,” Vrabel said of training camp. “It’s going to stand up over the stress of a football season that’s going to happen — whether it’s with injury, with loss, with family, with COVID, with positive tests.”

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