ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WKBW) — It wasn't an easy decision to make, but the Buffalo Bills couldn't wait any longer as training camp quickly approaches. The team will be spending that preseason period in Orchard Park for a second straight year, rather than head to St. John Fisher in Rochester.
"As of now, certain things need to be distanced no matter who's vaccinated or not. They could change between now and camp but there's no certainty or clarity and we're running up against all of the setup that needs to happen", Bills GM Brandon Beane said. "We wanted to make it work at St. John Fisher, but in the end as we sit here today, the current protocols make it really hard for us to do what we need to do."
The Bills spent last season in Orchard Park after even stricter COVID protocols made traveling and staying in a different location more difficult. It was an adjustment for not just the players, but for Bills fans from the Rochester area who were used to watching the team in action for the majority of the two-week period.
"I'm disappointed for our fans in that region that come religiously," Beane said. "But hopefully we can get back to holding training camp away [from OP] down the line."
Last season fans were unable to attend any open practices, but the team is hoping that will change this season as protocols continue to be lifted.
"We're looking at things and trying to find ways to have some open practices in the stadium so we can allow fans to come," Beane said. "We hope to down the road have some date(s) that will be open to the public."
Beane also made one thing clear about this year's training camp decision: it had NOTHING to do with vaccination numbers among team members. Things like meeting room space, locker room space, and indoor space if the weather shouldn't cooperate were all factors in St. John Fisher not being an ideal option. In the past these things wouldn't have been an issue, but because of the current NFL COVID protocols still in place, they can't adjust accordingly.
Most players have been tight-lipped about whether or not they've been vaccinated, while others have been fairly vocal on social media when it comes to their decision. Both Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have used the word "educating" rather than "forcing" players to get vaccinated as it's assumed some protocols will be lifted if a team meets the vaccination threshold. Beane said they don't know what those thresholds are, but feels confident in the team's focus and togetherness despite vaccinations being a hot topic around the league.
"Our locker room is very strong and guys support each other whatever their decisions are," Beane said. "Sean and I are right there with them."
Dates and times for Training Camp will be released at a later date.