Friday's NFL: Bills WR Beasley would rather retire than follow NFL COVID rules

Associated Press

Buffalo, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills receiver Cole Beasley does not plan to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and insists he will not follow rules jointly adopted by the NFL and NFLPA requiring unvaccinated players to stay clear of people.

Tweeting in response to criticism over the last 24 hours of his stance on social media, Beasley confirmed Friday he is not vaccinated and will “live my one life like I want to regardless.”

“I will be outside doing what I do,” he tweeted. “I’ll be out in public. If your (sic) scared of me then steer clear, or get vaccinated ... I may die of covid, but I’d rather die actually living.

“I’m not going to take meds for a leg that isn’t broken. I’d rather take my chances with Covid and build up my immunity that way ...I’ll play for free this year to live life how I’ve lived it from day one. If I’m forced into retirement, so be it.”

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) makes a catch during NFL football practice in Orchard Park, N.Y., Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Beasley said a lot of players agree with him and but many are not established veterans. The 32-year-old who is entering his 10th season wants to represent those players, he tweeted.

Beasley tweeted that his has spoken with the players' association since initially ripping them on their agreement with the league.

The new policy applies to training camp and the preseason. It restricts unvaccinated players while allowing vaccinated players to return to near normalcy, which made Beasley think the union was not representing all the players.

Beasley tweeted Friday morning a confirmation of The Athletic’s report that the NFLPA had reached out to him earlier in the day and come to an understanding regarding certain aspects of the policy.

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Under the new policy, vaccinated players will also no longer be required to wear masks at the team’s facility or during team travel. They will have no travel restrictions, can use the sauna/steam room and weight room without capacity limits, and can interact with vaccinated friends and family during team travel.

Unvaccinated players will be required to tested for COVID-19 daily and must wears masks in team facilities and during travel. They will also not be allowed to use the sauna/steam rooms, are subject to weight room capacity limits, and may not leave the team hotel to eat or interact with anyone outside of the team traveling party during travel.

The biggest issue for Cole is the difference between the protocols for those vaccinated and those not after high-risk exposure to COVID-19.

Unvaccinated players will be required to quarantine after high-risk exposure, while vaccinated players will not.

Beasley is entering his third season with the Bills. He had career best of 82 catches for 967 yards in 2020. He has two years and roughly $11.9 million remaining on his contract.

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More Friday NFL news

NFL holding its inaugural General Manager Forum next week

The NFL is holding its inaugural General Manager Forum next week in an effort to increase minority hiring in front offices.

The forum, named after Ozzie Newsome, will be held virtually on Monday ahead of the fourth annual Quarterback Coaching Summit. There are only four Black GMs and three Black head coaches in a 32-team league where about 70% of the players are minorities.

“I think it’s critical and I’m glad that the league is being intentional about doing it, because all of this work needs to be intentional,” longtime NFL executive Scott Pioli said of the GM forum. “In the history of our country, what we’ve done is we have ... groups of people that have intentionally marginalized folks. So now what we need to do is intentionally create programs and opportunities for people from marginalized groups to advance. So the fact that they’re doing this now or we’re doing this now as part of the NFL to help people advance and get exposure and get educated and become better and be mentored is a fantastic initiative by the league.”

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Pioli is among a list of speakers that includes Newsome, a Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and the first Black GM in league history.

“I think that it's extremely important for us as a league to recognize his contributions to the game, but also for him as a way of giving back to those hopefuls that will come behind him,” NFL vice president of football operations Natara Holloway said on the AP Pro Football Podcast.

Pioli began his career in the NFL as a pro personnel assistant with the Browns in 1992, a year after Newsome joined Cleveland's front office. They worked six seasons together in Cleveland and Baltimore. Newsome became Baltimore's GM in 2002. By then, Pioli was New England's vice president of player personnel.

“I have a tremendous Ozzie Newsome story to share with the group next week when we talk about this and to talk about not only the relationship between the head coach and the general manager and owner, but all three of those relationships, because those are three independent relationships of very influential and powerful people with great skills and abilities that have to collaborate,” Pioli said.

Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, New York Giants owner John Mara, Buffalo Bills owner Kim Pegula and Black College Football Hall of Fame co-founder James “Shack” Harris also will speak during Monday's sessions.

The participation of owners is noteworthy because ultimately they have final say in hiring.

“It’s really important for us because they’re the ones who are doing the hiring and the genesis of both events is just making sure that hiring individuals are aware of the talent that’s out there so participating in this event allows for that networking to happen, even if it’s virtual,” Holloway said.

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Pioli, who won three Super Bowls as a personnel boss with the Patriots, said owner involvement in hiring varies from team to team. He also worked for the Jets, Chiefs and most recently served as assistant GM for the Falcons from 2014-19.

“Some owners take more ownership, so to speak, in the process than others but it does come down to the owners,” he said. “Decisions about who they listen to is what’s most important. Are they listening to their general manager or are you listening to a family member or are they listening to the president or someone on the business side? So there’s a lot of people with information coming to the owners, helping them make that decision, which is why this is really important now, too, because generally speaking and historically is most people in those positions of power look like me and they look like the owners. So they, generally speaking, don’t have a great deal of proximity or circle of friends outside of people that don’t look like them. So very often the people that are brought to owners or the people that are talked about with owners are people that look like them.”

The two-day coaching event follows the GM forum and features various topics including how to build a coaching staff and winning culture, the qualities of a head coach, as well as provide networking opportunities for career advancement.

Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Steelers President Art Rooney II are among the speakers scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Arians won a Super Bowl last season with the most diverse staff in league history. Tampa Bay has three Black coordinators and two female assistants.

Jaguars sign WR Laquon Treadwell following minicamp tryout

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed receiver Laquon Treadwell on Friday, adding the 2016 first-round draft pick following a minicamp tryout.

Treadwell was the 23rd overall pick that year by Minnesota, but the former Mississippi standout did little in four years with the Vikings.

He caught 65 passes for 701 yards and two touchdowns with Minnesota. He played five games for Atlanta last season.

Treadwell impressed Jaguars coach Urban Meyer quickly, with Meyer calling him “a big body that can run and great hands.”

To make room for Treadwell on its 90-man roster, Jacksonville waived receiver Jon’Vea Johnson.

Bills hire Jones-connected firm on new stadium talks

The Buffalo Bills are pursuing plans to build a new stadium to replace their aging facility, and have selected a company controlled by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the New York Yankees to represent them in negotiations, reported on Friday.

The publication cited “industry sources” in reporting the Jones-Yankees controlled Legends Global Planning firm being selected to represent Bills owner Terry and Kim Pegula in discussions. The publication also reported, a company division, Legends Global Sales, was selected to sell sponsorships and seat licensing for the prospective new stadium.

The report comes after the Bills opened talks last month with New York state and county officials last month to determine their long-term future home. The discussions were based on a feasibility study the Pegulas launched to assess whether to renovate their current facility, Highmark Stadium, built in 1973, or build a new one either near their existing suburban site or downtown.

The study was privately funded and its results not released to the public.

A spokesman for Pegula Sports and Entertainment declined comment on the report. New York State officials did not respond to messages from The Associated Press, while an Erie County spokesman said the selection of Legends was strictly a Bills decision and made without county input.

A message left with Legends was not returned.

The partnership with Legends makes sense as Terry Pegula has developed a close friendship with Jones. The Yankees connection is also considered important, because the Major League baseball team is considered to have clout at the state level.

The price tag for a new stadium is projected to be at $1.5 billion. That’s a considerable price tag for one of the NFL’s smallest markets, with questions focusing on how the costs would be split between public and private entities.

Renovating the current stadium wouldn’t come cheap. A 2014 study funded by the state projected it would cost $540 million for the next series of renovations, including structural improvements and rebuilding the stadium’s third deck.

Pegula has previously stressed the Bills will take into account how much the local economy can bear in whatever option is chosen.

“We have the interest of our fans at heart, and what we do will be heavily weighted — whatever the plan is — toward the benefit of our fans,” Pegula told The AP in June 2019.

The Pegulas also own the NHL Sabres, and the study includes proposals for much-needed upgrades to the team’s downtown home, KeyBank Center.