NASHVILLE — Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill had no intention of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. The NFL's extensive protocols for unvaccinated players ultimately changed his mind.
"I think the NFL has kind of made it clear what they want to happen," Tannehill said Wednesday after the team's first practice of training camp. "If you don't fall in line, they're going to try to make your life kind of miserable with all the protocols. So I think you're seeing the trend is that most guys are getting vaccinated."
The NFL Players Association also has supported the league's protocols, under which nearly 87% of players are in the vaccination process or have completed it.
Getting vaccinated certainly seems to be the trend for the Titans, as general manager Jon Robinson said 90% of the team is either fully vaccinated or has started the process. A number of players took the field wearing masks Wednesday — including Tannehill, guard Rodger Saffold and cornerback Kristian Fulton — but Robinson explained some players are still awaiting a second shot or have only recently received it.
"We want to be an example for our community, for our state, to encourage the vaccination," Robinson said. "I'm proud to say we're at 90%. That's a good indication of what we feel about the vaccine as an organization, and (to help) try to encourage those in our community and our state to kind of follow our lead on it."
Saffold had been undecided on the vaccine during the offseason, adding he planned to study the issue. He decided to get vaccinated just recently, and after getting two shots, he's simply waiting for the antibodies in his system to build up before he removes his mask, he said.
"I'm very impressed we're at 90(%) ... especially after what we went through last year," Saffold said, referencing the COVID-19 outbreak the Titans endured early in the season.
"For me, it just came down to kind of like a cause and effect," Saffold added. "I knew that protocols were going to be a lot more stringent."
The league's restrictions for unvaccinated players are extensive — on the field, in the facility and even in the community. A few examples: Unvaccinated players are not permitted to eat meals with teammates, can't use the sauna or steam room and can only be in the weight room with a limited number of teammates.
The long list of restrictions left Tannehill feeling as if he had little choice.
"I wouldn't have gotten the vaccine if not for all the intensive protocols and not being able to gather with teammates, separate locker rooms, separate meeting rooms, separate cafeteria," Tannehill said. "All those type things where you're learning team chemistry, the team bond, which I think is so important."
As a reminder that the COVID-19 threat remains real and present, the Titans placed defensive back Chris Jones on the COVID-19 reserve list Wednesday, signing defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun to take his place. Boddy-Calhoun has played in 47 NFL games since 2016, starting 22.
"It is what it is," Tannehill said of vaccinations. "I love this game, I love this team. I want to be able to compete and do the things I think are important to build chemistry and win football games. So ultimately, that forced my hand."
Julio Jones faces lawsuit
Titans wide receiver Julio Jones is facing allegations of illegally harvesting and selling millions of dollars of cannabis in California, according to court records.
California-based cannabis company Genetixs filed the suit earlier this month against a handful of defendants including Jones, former Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White and White's company, SLW Holdings — one of the five entities that comprise Genetixs.
The complaint claims the defendants failed to report cannabis sales since March, estimating the defendants have harvested and sold $3 million worth of cannabis per month.
"The scope of said defendants' theft, black-market sales, money laundering, and diversion of assets and expenses without documentation or approval, is staggering and has caused, and is causing, Genetixs substantial and irreparable harm and damage," the 26-page lawsuit states.
An attorney representing Jones, White and SLW Holdings, described the allegations in the lawsuit as "conspiracy theories."
"The vague allegations against SLW Holdings LLC and its members Roddy White and Julio Jones are meritless," attorney Rafe Emanuel told The Tennessean. "In May, SLW obtained a temporary restraining order in a related civil case to prevent unlawful conduct involving Genetixs LLC. In reply, the defendants argued conspiracy theories that were not proven by evidence in court, nor were they substantiated before any agency."
A spokesperson for the Titans said the team was aware of the lawsuit but would not have any comment.
The lawsuit said Jones and White worked with two other defendants to run a "black-market sales of cannabis" out of the Genetixs facility in Desert Hot Springs, California.
The complaint alleges Genetixs fired a manager in March after a state inspection of the facility reported several violations. The complaint also said the manager failed to report cannabis sales and refused to provide budgets and other business paperwork to Genetixs.
After the firing, Genetixs' complaint states, Jones, White and the others operated an "illegal black-market operation from the Genetixs Cannabis Facility to sell cannabis and misappropriate the illegal sales proceeds without reporting them."
California broadly legalized recreational marijuana sales in January 2018. The lawsuit said the state requires businesses to use a "track-and-trace" system to record the movement of cannabis and cannabis products through the commercial supply chain.
Genetixs is licensed in California to sell cannabis, but the company said it now faces threat of losing that license because of the actions of Jones, White and other defendants.
Jones, 32, was traded to Tennessee in June. He left as the Falcons' all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. White, who last played in 2015, is the Falcons' all-time leader in touchdown receptions.