Rod Woodson: ‘Get educated, do the right thing’ when it comes to COVID vaccine

Hall of Fame DB Rod Woodson joined Yahoo Sports NFL Writer Eric Edholm to talk about his former teams, the NFL’s new emphasis on taunting penalties, and to educate fans about the COVID-19 Vaccine.

As NFL training camp kicks off, the Delta variant is causing new concern and a continuing national conversation about COVID-19 vaccination. The NFL Alumni Health, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are speaking up to encourage people to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Video Transcript

ERIC EDHOLM: Well, we are pleased to be joined at Yahoo Sports by Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson. And Rod, I wanted to start by looking back a couple weeks, the Hall of Fame ceremonies. What was it like to sort of soak up this whole weekend? You've been in for over a decade now, but now you got to watch some of your football family kind of get into the Hall of Fame.

RON WOODSON: Yeah. I mean, I was happy for Donnie. You know, he was my roommate my rookie year. Bill came in five years later, so it was great to see Bill. Troy Polamalu-- man, that guy is probably the most humblest, best athlete I've ever met in my life. But it was nice to see everybody.

ERIC EDHOLM: Absolutely. And I would guess that the talk of the Steelers goes from past to present, as in, what's going to happen with this team this year? There seems, like, such a range of possibilities, and a lot of it depending on the play of Ben Roethlisberger. Is he sort of the X factor, if you will? I mean, the quarterback always seems to be. But is Big Ben playing well the difference between a great year and possibly missing the playoffs, in your opinion?

RON WOODSON: Well, Ben played well last year, but he was just asked to do too much. You know, they have to be able to run the football. And they kind of got away from that last year. Couldn't run the ball. Everybody knew they could throw the ball. But now, you know, having Najee Harris there, the mindset has to go, run first. You know, don't make Ben throw the ball 45, 50 times in a game. Defensively, they're going to play really good football. I'm not even worried about that.

ERIC EDHOLM: Yeah. And another team that you're closely aligned with, another team with an Alabama star at running back-- the Las Vegas Raiders. I mean, in your mind, is it in the cards for Vegas to succeed with, you know, Carr at quarterback, Gruden as the head coach, or might this be the final year of that pairing?

RON WOODSON: No. You know, defensively, they really hurt them last year-- just the way they couldn't protect Lee, they gave up big plays. I think that's going to be completely different. New defensive coordinator. I think this is going to be a better football team than it was last year. I think they can close some of those games that they had. And they gave up late touchdowns to lose the game last year. I don't think they'll do that.

ERIC EDHOLM: I want to stay with the Raiders but maybe shift gears a little bit. They were the first NFL team to mandate vaccines for games this year. And I know you, personally-- you're partnering with the NFL Alumni Health, the CDC. You're working to help promote COVID-vaccine confidence. And you and your family have been-- have felt the effects of this virus. Is that maybe a big reason why you got involved in this? And just tell us about, you know, what you've been through and what your message is for COVID.

RON WOODSON: You know, it kind of ran through our family. My wife got it pretty bad. I was asymptomatic. You know, I tested positive, but I really didn't know-- you know, I wasn't sick or anything. My daughter's boyfriend father passed away from complications of COVID 'cause he had pre-existing conditions.

But I'm absolutely fine with what the NFL is doing, in the sense that they're like, listen. We can't mandate that you get vaccinated. But we can say, if you cause us to forfeit a game, or if you cause your team to forfeit a game, nobody's going to get paid. We're going to fine you. And it's really, we're going to fine you because you're being selfish.

If you look at the CDC and where this Delta variant is at, how it's working out, you know, most of the people-- over 90% of the people that are hospitalized are unvaccinated. A lot of the people who are dying are unvaccinated.

So my question would just be, do the right thing. Don't be the person that goes into the grocery store, and you have no idea if this person behind the cash register has pre-existing conditions, but you're the carrier. And then you give them even the variant or COVID, and that person dies or goes into ICU. I mean, you don't want to-- and you don't even know it. That's selfishness, to me.

And so my thing is, just get educated. Do the right thing. Yes, we do have freedom of choice in this country. I understand that. I do believe in that. But at the end of the day, if we want to get back to where we want to go, then we all have to do our part.

ERIC EDHOLM: And speaking of cracking down, I mean, the league-- one of the things that has come up this pre-season-- the sort of enforcement of celebrations of these taunting penalties. What is your thought about the NFL's intention, or stated intention, to crack down on excessive celebrations? The guy gained seven yards, you know, flips the football, 15-yard penalty. I mean, what is your thought on this?

RON WOODSON: Well, it's not flipping the football. It's flipping the football at someone--

ERIC EDHOLM: Right.

RON WOODSON: --right? That's taunting. So if I flip the football 'cause I'm excited, you have at it. You can do that. But you can't flip the football at somebody. You can't stand over some-- I really dislike a guy making a common play, and he think he just saved the world. I just-- you know, I don't know if I was seeing Superman or Batman or whoever-- the Hulk-- in front of me, and he just saved a plane from going down or something. And it seems like he's overly excited.

And you can be overly excited. Just don't taunt the person that you just beat or ran over. Just don't taunt them. That's all they're saying. Play the game. Have respect for everybody, which you should. But at the end of the day, no wagging your finger at them, no coming up and pointing in their helmets, because at-- old-school football, if you would have pointed your finger in my face, in my face mask, we're fighting. That's old-school football. And I mean, if anybody would have taunted back in the day, they're getting drop-kicked.

You know, now it's like, anybody can do anything to anybody, and it's OK. So I'm absolutely so happy to see the NFL cracking down on that specific thing. They're not saying you can't have fun. They're not saying you can't celebrate. They're not saying you can't jump up and go, first down! They're just saying you can't get up and turn around in the guy's face and point in his face and say, first down. That's taunting. And I'm absolutely OK with that.

ERIC EDHOLM: Seven Pro Bowls as a corner, four as a safety, former Defensive Player of the Year and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. If there's anyone who knows about this stuff, it is you. And thank you so much for hopping on today and talking a little football with us.

RON WOODSON: I definitely appreciate it. Any time you need me, call me.