Former NFL safety T.J. Ward deleted insensitive tweets he made Tuesday about Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera wanting his players to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
On Tuesday, Rivera made it clear to Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post that he was unhappy only an NFL-low 60 percent of his players have gotten vaccinated. Rivera added: "I'm truly frustrated. I'm beyond frustrated. Part of the reason I walk in with a mask on is I'm immune-deficient. ... I just hope that our guys can understand that."
Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in August 2020. He was declared cancer-free in January after undergoing several weeks of treatment.
Per ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, Ward posted two tweets in reference to Rivera and the Washington Football Team, which he later deleted.
In the first tweet, Ward wrote: "Just park the Riverboat. His health is beyond that of COVID. Maybe it's time to let it go. Don't blame the players for your life long health decisions."
Ward later added:
"At some point you gotta pay for them vices. Cancer runs in my family like many American families. But also bad diets and cigarettes do as well. Except responsibility. Don't blame and be disappointed in your 23 year olds cus they have they own bodies and opinions about their health."
In a subsequent tweet that Ward has not deleted, he said he wasn't trying to be insensitive in his previous tweets:
Aside from the health benefits, Rivera's desire for his players to get vaccinated by be competitively motivated as well.
Players who are fully vaccinated have fewer daily restrictions, as they don't have to wear masks to the team facility and have no limits on in-person meetings.
Also, the NFL announced last week that if any team has a COVID-19 outbreak caused by unvaccinated players during the 2021 regular season and the game cannot be rescheduled, the team with the outbreak may be forced to forfeit.
The 34-year-old Ward spent eight seasons in the NFL from 2010 to 2017 with the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, earning two Pro Bowl nods and winning Super Bowl 50 with Denver.
Rivera, 59, is set to enter his second season as head coach of the Washington Football Team.
He coached the Carolina Panthers for nine years, winning NFL Coach of the Year honors twice. His Panthers lost to Ward and the Broncos in Super Bowl 50 as well.
Prior to becoming head coach of the Panthers, Rivera was a Super Bowl-winning linebacker during his time with the Chicago Bears from 1984 to 1992 before becoming an assistant coach for multiple teams.
Rivera guided the Washington Football Team to an unexpected playoff berth last season, winning the NFC East with a 7-9 record.
The WFT will look to build on that progress in 2021, although Rivera is clearly hopeful a larger percentage of his roster will get vaccinated by the time the regular season rolls around.