10:01 AM ET
Jeff DickersonESPN Staff Writer
- Dickerson covers the Chicago Bears for ESPN’s NFL Nation. He is the co-host of “Dickerson & Hood” on the ESPN Radio national network, and is heard in Chicago on ESPN 1000.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears tight end Jimmy Graham vented about the NFLPA on a variety of topics Thursday, including the union’s proposal to increase the frequency of COVID-19 testing for vaccinated players and the addition of a 17th regular-season game.
“I’ve been in the league going on 12 years now, and it’s been kind of frustrating at times with them [the NFLPA],” Graham said. “I’m not going to hold back. I’m a grown man. And I wish somebody would talk to me and speak to me like a grown man and let me have a little bit of say in some things. I’m about to go onto Week 17 playing for free as well. How does that make any sense? Who even petitioned for that? I certainly didn’t.”
Graham initially aired his grievances toward the NFLPA on the vaccination proposal with a pair of tweets Thursday morning.
“Was basically forced into getting the vaccine. Now I’m just confused @NFLPA,” Graham tweeted, later writing, “I’ve done everything I’ve been asked and now I feel like I’m being punished. If I miss a test that you are proposing every day I’ll be fined a max 150K! How does this make sense. How’s the punishment 100X worse than last year and I’m vaccinated now?”
The NFLPA released a memo this week that recommended testing vaccinated players and staff every day they enter the team facility. The recommendations are based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NFLPA’s medical experts. The union did not recommend that fully vaccinated players be tested on their off-days or bye weeks.
Sixty-five players and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since training camps opened, according to the NFLPA memo.
Graham did not back down from his comments when he addressed the media after practice.
“For me, it’s one of these things where, last year, I understand last year and what was happening last year,” Graham said. “We all made a commitment to try to make this season happen, like that season happened, to try to make a run and win the Super Bowl. I understood what that was about. You know there wasn’t a vaccine available. There was a lot less known about it, so we had to take those measures to do that.”
“I thought we also had a game plan going into this season, and now we’re kind of redacting and retracting on that. So it’s a bit frustrating for myself, who went out and got the vaccine just so I could, you know, do the same thing and have another successful healthy season. That’s all I’m going to say about that.”
As of early Thursday morning, coach Matt Nagy said he had not discussed the matter with Graham but noted that the team works hard to educate players and staff about all coronavirus-related safety protocols.
“All these guys have opinions and beliefs, and I’m never going to criticize anybody for what their belief is. We all have it, and we all have the ability to voice it,” Nagy said before Thursday’s practice. “He [Graham] has not come to me about any of that, and Jimmy and I have a close enough relationship that if there is an issue that him and I would have that one-on-one.
“There is stuff going on every day with this, and I think everybody is figuring out the best thing to do to be safe. And not just in the sports world but in life in general; every state is a little different in what they are doing. Masks, no masks, things are certainly changing.”