Dallas Cowboys legend Michael Irvin fired discussed suggestions his comments in favor of the COVID-19 vaccine were a political stance.
Irvin said Wednesday on 105.3 The Fan (via Demetrio Teniente of the Dallas Morning News) that his belief players should get vaccinated is focused solely on preventing potential issues during the 2021 NFL season:
"This is what gets me. I don't mind you coming after me. I don't mind you say what you say. Do two things, though. Don't put me into your political discussion. 'Ooh, right wing, left wing.' I don't give a damn about that. I don't care about the right wing, left wing—I only care about a ring. Not the right wing, left wing—a ring. That's all I care about. I don't care about the conspiracy theorists. 'Oh, they're trying to kill us.' If the government wanted you dead, our asses would all be dead right now. So just shut up with all of that."
At a public event last week, Irvin was asked about the Cowboys' initial failure to reach the 85 percent vaccination threshold for reduced COVID-19 restrictions during training camp. He said players and staff members who were keeping the franchise below that number were "not thinking right," per ESPN's Todd Archer.
The Hall of Fame wide receiver and NFL Network analyst said not meeting the threshold represented a competitive disadvantage:
"Somebody in that damn locker room [should say], 'Hey man, we're going to have a chance, are you vaccinated?' Let's go through this because this could be a two-week healthy dude missing games, and in this league, this ain't the NBA. In this league that could be it for you. The right person misses two weeks, that's it. Your ass is out."
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones commented on Irvin's remarks Wednesday at the start of training camp.
"I thought it was an outstanding message," he told reporters.
Jones said the franchise had made significant strides in its vaccination rate with only a "handful of players" who weren't at least "in the pipeline," meaning they'd gotten the first shot and were waiting on their second or something of a similar nature.
On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to the league's 32 teams outlining COVID-19 guidelines for the 2021 season, including harsh financial penalties and potential forfeiture of games for teams with coronavirus outbreaks among unvaccinated players and staff that lead to canceled games.
The Cowboys open the preseason Aug. 5 when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game. Their regular season kicks off Sept. 9 when they visit the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.