Sports: Opinion: NFL gives US glimpse of what life can be like if we get COVID-19 under control

NFL Draft prospects 2022: Updated big board of top 50 players overall, position rankings

  NFL Draft prospects 2022: Updated big board of top 50 players overall, position rankings Sporting News presents its second big board for the 2022 NFL Draft, with seven quarterbacks and seven wide receivers making the top 50, led by Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler and Ohio State's Chris Olave.Wide receivers and offensive linemen also shine brightly in the spotlight, mixed in with some elite impact defenders.

Vaccines work, and so do mandates. The NFL is proof.

a close up of a person holding a basketball: More than 93 of NFL players have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. © Jacob Kupferman, AP More than 93 of NFL players have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot.

As President Joe Biden issues new directives to try and boost the country’s vaccination rate and end the COVID-19 pandemic, 93.5 percent of NFL players have had at least one shot. The number is even better for coaches and staff, at 99-plus percent.

In a country where less than 74 percent of the eligible population has gotten at least one shot, those numbers are astoundingly good.

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

Cowboys rookie DT Osa Odighizuwa says Tom Brady is 'not very mobile'

  Cowboys rookie DT Osa Odighizuwa says Tom Brady is 'not very mobile' Cowboys rookie Osa Odighizuwa said Dallas' defense will be keyed in on moving Tom Brady off his spot when the two teams meet in the NFL season opener.But the Cowboys rookie delving into his first professional game plan didn’t cower when asked what weakness most plagues the quarterback he will battle during the Cowboys-Bucs regular-season opener next Thursday.

The NFL isn’t completely free of COVID-19, but the difference the vaccines have made is obvious. Those who’ve tested positive after being vaccinated have been either asymptomatic or have had milder symptoms for a shorter time. While outbreaks have spread like brushfire in schools, the NFL’s breakthrough cases have been contained to small clusters, despite its rosters being two and, at points during training camp, four times larger.

“Maybe,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president for player health and safety, said Friday, “this is a little bit of a harbinger for what the world could look like.”

If only.

While some shameless politicians and deceitful media personalities have tried to turn COVID measures into a nonsensical referendum on freedom, the NFL has taken the lead in modeling responsible behavior. Once vaccines became readily available, it doubled down on that.

The NFL's 25 highest-paid players in 2021, from Patrick Mahomes to DeMarcus Lawrence

  The NFL's 25 highest-paid players in 2021, from Patrick Mahomes to DeMarcus Lawrence As expected, quarterbacks dominate the list of the NFL's highest-paid players of 2021.If we're talking guaranteed money, Josh Allen ($150 million) takes the cake. If we're talking about year-to-year base salary, then Jimmy Garoppolo ($24.1 million) is the clubhouse leader, believe it or not. And in terms of total contract value, Patrick Mahomes' $450 million deal dwarfs all others.

All Tier 1 and 2 personnel – coaches and staff – were required to be vaccinated. While no similar mandate was issued for players, the NFL and NFL Players Association did everything but, using every tool they had to entice players to get jabbed.

Don’t want to wear a mask in the team facility? You don’t have to if you’re vaccinated! Want to eat in the team dining room or use the steam room? A shot is the price of admission. Family and friends want to come see you when you’re on the road? No problem – if you’re vaccinated.

And perhaps most important, players who are vaccinated don’t have to isolate if they’re identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19 so long as they’re asymptomatic. That means no missed practices, no missed games. If someone who’s vaccinated does test positive, he can return after having two negative PCR tests within a 24-hour span, rather than sitting out 10 days.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers live blog: Score updates, analysis of NFL season opener

  Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers live blog: Score updates, analysis of NFL season opener The NFL season kicks off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beginning their Super Bowl title defense by hosting the Dallas Cowboys. Follow along!The regular season kicks off Thursday as the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers play host to the Dallas Cowboys. The game will mark Dak Prescott's much-anticipated return from a compound fracture and dislocated ankle last October. Prescott and the Cowboys' promising offense – which is set to be without all-pro guard Zack Martin – will have a tough test out of the gates against a Buccaneers defense that surged during its Super Bowl run last season.

“We have a really unique opportunity here to contribute to the public health knowledge about the pandemic, and particularly about the vaccinations,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer.

The NFL is not immune to the misinformation and hardened beliefs that have made vaccination efforts so fraught across much of the country.

Cole Beasley thinks the science is unsettled, despite the technology used to produce the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines being around for decades, as well as reams and reams of data showing their success and safety. Adam Shaheen says he won't let the NFL "strong arm" him into getting a vaccine – as if he didn’t have to be vaccinated to enter kindergarten. And grade school. And high school. And … well, you get the idea.

Lamar Jackson frames it as a “personal choice,” even though he would leave the Baltimore Ravens in a world of hurt should he get COVID-19 during the season. For a third time, I might add.

'WE'RE NOT PLAYING:' Paul Tagliabue shares behind-the-scenes challenges of NFL's pause after 9/11

NFL PREDICTIONS: Super Bowl 56, playoffs, MVP and other awards predictions from USA TODAY Sports experts

As NFL's regular season begins, more than 93% of players are fully or partially vaccinated

  As NFL's regular season begins, more than 93% of players are fully or partially vaccinated NFL's COVID-19 protocols provide incentive for players to get vaccinated while making life harder for those who don't.About half of the players who were not vaccinated when they arrived at training camp have since received at least one shot, Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said Friday.

In what should be an encouraging sign for the rest of the country, however, the NFL’s vaccination rate continues to go up. About half the players who weren’t vaccinated when training camp began now have at least one shot, Sills said, and there are players getting their first jab every day.

“You’re going to continue to see us presenting our data and showing what we’re finding in our own population and demonstrating the positive impact of vaccination,” Sills said. “It’s an important part of considering getting vaccinated.”

But the NFL can – and should – be doing more.

There needs to vaccination sites outside every stadium, at every game this season. Because teams don’t all operate their stadiums, they can’t all require proof of vaccination for entry. But they can provide some powerful incentives.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers let fans who could prove they’d been vaccinated take photos with the Lombardi Trophy this summer. Other teams could offer tickets. Jerseys. Free food and drinks. A prime parking spot. The chance to announce a future draft pick. The possibilities are endless.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: Two late fumbles that helped Raiders win 'ticked me off'

  Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: Two late fumbles that helped Raiders win 'ticked me off' The Baltimore Ravens looked to be in command for most of their season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. Two Lamar Jackson fumbles changed that.Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2019 NFL MVP, had the ball in his hands with a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but his fumble set up a Las Vegas Raiders touchdown that tied the game. It wouldn't be the last time in the night that a giveaway would prove costly.

The NFL is king of all things in this country, but nowhere is its power and reach more evident than in TV ratings. Use that leverage. Create 30- and 60-second PSAs on the importance – and safety – of the vaccines, and have Commissioner Roger Goodell tell CBS, FOX, NBC and ESPN he expects to see them during every game.

COVID-19 is probably never going to go away completely, but we can get to a point where it’s manageable. “A seasonal respiratory illness,” as Sills described it.

It's an admirable goal. But if the NFL can manage it, it provides hope that the rest of the country can, too.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: NFL gives US glimpse of what life can be like if we get COVID-19 under control

NFL proclaims playoff revolution .
With 18 matchdays, the current playing time is already entering the history of the NFL. Now the league announces another revolution in the playoffs. © Provided by sport1.de NFL announces Playoff Revolution Curtain for the Super Wild Card Weekend! After the season 2021 with 18 matchdays and 17 games for each franchise already the greatest playing time in the history of the NFL, the League has now announced another revolution.

See also