Titans' Ryan Tannehill: NFL 'trying to force our hands' on COVID-19 vaccines

"If you don't fall in line, they're going to try and make your life miserable because of the protocol," Ryan Tannehill said of the league's COVID-19 rules for unvaccinated players. Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans opened up training camp on Wednesday with a 90% COVID-19 vaccination rate, according to GM Jon Robinson. It's unclear whether those are all fully vaccinated players or players with at least one shot, but one player in the process of getting vaccinated is Ryan Tannehill.

The quarterback spoke to the media after practice and said he's getting vaccinated only because of the NFL's severe protocols for the unvaccinated.

"I am currently in the process right now," Tannehill said. "The NFL has made it clear what they want to happen. If you don't fall in line, they're going to try and make your life miserable because of the protocol.

"I wouldn't have gotten the vaccine without the protocols that they are enforcing on us. I think it's a personal decision for each of us. They are trying to force our hands and ultimately have forced a lot of hands by the protocols. It is what it is."

Tannehill said he loves the game and his team, so he wanted to get vaccinated to help build chemistry with his teammates in the locker room and cafeteria as well as on the field. According to Tannehill, the Titans brought doctors and other medical authorities to help educate the players about vaccines.

Despite that educational experience, Tannehill is still not fully comfortable with COVID-19 vaccines. He declined to explain why.

Tannehill wore a mask during the team stretch period to start practice but was not required to wear the mask during practice. Robinson said it is part of new protocols that were instituted Tuesday night. Robinson also explained the four categories of players who have been vaccinated.

"There's a group that is fully vaccinated that has had either the single shot or two shots and has waited for the 14-day acclimation period," he said before practice. "The next category of players is one that has been vaccinated, but they are waiting to clear the 14-day period before they are fully vaccinated. There's a third category where they are in between shots. Then there's a fourth category where they haven't been vaccinated."

The Titans are encouraging the players to do more research and become more familiar with the vaccination process.

Added coach Mike Vrabel, "We are focused on making sure that we continue to educate our players to let them make the best decision for them and hopefully this football team. It is a personal decision and, hopefully, one that they can come to that will help them and that will help this team."

Vrabel said he expects the number of vaccinated players to continue to increase but maintains that protocols won't change as the percentage increases. While some teams have utilized a band to identify unvaccinated players, Vrabel said the Titans aren't utilizing such identifiers.

The entire Titans coaching staff is fully vaccinated, according to Vrabel. However, the team did place defensive back Chris Jones on the reserve/COVID-19 list before Wednesday's practice.