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This article was published 27/9/2021 (277 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
After 18 months of a global pandemic, everyone knows how quickly things can change.
All it takes is one slip to go from zero cases, to enough that a season could potentially be derailed.
Fortunately for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the vast majority are doing what they can to lower the COVID-19 risk so the team can keep their sights set on football.
The Bombers, who sit on top of the CFL standings at 6-1, are back from their bye week and returned to work on Monday with a practice at the University of Manitoba turf field. Everyone was tested on the first day back and no tests came back positive. Head coach Mike O’Shea told reporters after practice that 98 per cent of the team has had at least one dose while 88 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Those numbers could prove to be more important than ever come October. At some point next month, it’s expected that passengers on flights in Canada will be required to be vaccinated to fly within the country. That mandate would also include CFL players on charter aircraft, meaning unvaccinated players might be unable to play road games this fall. It’s less of an issue for teams in the East Division as they can bus to games, but for teams in the West Division, that likely isn’t a viable option.
"These are things that we certainly think about and we keep in-house," O’Shea said after Monday’s practice.
"As much thought as you put into it, you also still have to wait to see what exactly happens to make good decisions based on the information you’re given. Right now, a firm date would be nice, other than that, we’re just throwing darts."
No positive cases on Monday is a relief, but that doesn’t mean the Bombers are in the clear from their bye just yet. While most players spent the week off in Winnipeg and its surrounding areas, some headed down south to see family and friends. They had to be fully vaccinated to have the option to do that, but having their shots doesn’t make them invisible, which is what the CFL learned earlier this month when Montreal Alouettes head coach Khari Jones tested positive.
"It was important that guys take a mental rest from football. If that part, for a fully vaccinated player, was visiting their family, then that’s what they needed to do," said O’Shea. "Now we still didn’t have a lot of guys leave the province. A lot of them stayed."
Defensive tackle Steven Richardson spent the week in his hometown of Chicago. The pandemic didn’t make him feel uneasy about travelling home, but it did make for a long journey to get there and back.
"The hassle that I went through of making it on the plane to even get to Chicago and then the hassle I had between connecting flights on the way back from Chicago, that’s what the biggest issue was," Richardson said.
"I wasn’t even thinking about COVID. I already had the hand sanitizer, mask, and everything, so I wasn’t even worried about that. There’s just so many more rules and it takes so much longer to get through the airport, it was just a mess."
Veteran defensive back Nick Taylor was one of the Bombers who stayed put and decided to use the free time to explore Manitoba. The Hollywood, Fla., native stayed at a cabin in Pinawa.
"I didn’t want to go back and forth to the states. I’d probably spend more money at home so I figured honestly I may as well relax out here," Taylor said with a laugh.
"The weather was perfect... There was nice days so I said ‘I don’t have to go to Miami for the weather, I could just relax out here.’ I have water, that’s all I need. Just some water to look at and jump into the lake, that’s all I need and I’m gonna have a good time."
The situation with the Edmonton Elks serves as the perfect reminder how quickly things can go downhill. The Elks had over a dozen cases last month which forced the league to postpone their Aug. 26 meeting with the Toronto Argos. Edmonton had another case pop up on the weekend as offensive lineman David Beard entered COVID protocols on Sunday. The Elks have had a league-high 17 positive tests in total this season.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...