NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills
Rich Barnes / USA TODAY Sports

You can bet your bottom dollar the Buffalo Bills would love to focus solely on what happens between the lines in 2021, as they work to build on what was one of the more special seasons in franchise history -- finishing 13-3 in 2020 and going blow for blow with the Kansas City Chiefs in the conference championship. Not so fast though, because the COVID-19 pandemic has taken center stage in Buffalo, mostly due to the passionate refusal by Cole Beasley to get vaccinated. He's now been placed on the team's COVID/Reserve list along with Gabriel Davis, both receivers having had close contact with a trainer that tested positive.

It's possible they'll soon have to add receiver Isaiah McKenzie to that list, but even if they don't, he's being punished by the NFL for refusing to wear a mask in the indoor fieldhouse, training room and weight room -- via league memo -- a violation that carries a stiff penalty for unvaccinated players. To that point, McKenzie is being fined $14,650 by the NFL and, needless to say, he's not happy with the punishment.

"They got me! NFL, you win!" McKenzie said sarcastically, via Twitter.

It didn't take long for Beasley to weigh in on the matter, either.

"Don't worry they got me, too," Beasley said. "But I was wearing a mask when I was in close contact with fully vaxxed trainer who tested positive, and still got sent home. So what's the point of the mask anyways? Meanwhile I'm here still testing negative and can't come back. 

"Make it make sense. ... I wore a mask that whole day but got fined because I didn't have it [on] from entry door to the locker room, which is literally 5 steps."

Having now suffered the first official consequence in the matter, they're now subject to heightened discipline that could include punishment under the league's "conduct detrimental" clause. That could include losing a game check and/or being suspended up to four games with no pay, but that's not all. The league has already made it clear teams who suffer outbreaks due to unvaccinated players could face forfeiture of games in 2021, if their game cannot be rescheduled, and that would mean an added loss that counts against them in the race for a playoff spot. In addition, the offending team could be responsible for the financial liability of a canceled contest.

Beasley, who also threatened to retire over COVID-19 policies, recently attempted to clarify his stance on the matter.

"I'm not anti- or pro-vax -- I'm pro-choice," Beasley said, reading a written statement at the opening of 2021 training camp. "With that being said, the issue at hand is information being withheld from players in order for a player to be swayed in a direction he may not be comfortable with. When dealing with a player's health and safety, there should be complete transparency regarding information that is vital in the decision-making process. Without having all the proper information, a player can feel misguided and unsure about a very personal choice. 

"It makes a player feel unprotected and gives concerns about future topics regarding health and our ability to make educated decisions."

The lines are clearly drawn by all sides, and the NFL isn't budging on the matter as the delta variant creates another surge in the pandemic. And, with that, the Bills suddenly find themselves doing all they can to keep their receiving corps available going into the regular season -- hoping they don't find themselves without top players like Beasley when it matters most going forward. Beasley, Davis and McKenzie combined for 1,848 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns for Josh Allen and the Bills offense in 2020.

It would be a significant blow if they're banned for any game in 2021, and especially if that game is in January (or February).