The NFL has moved three games because of COVID-19 outbreaks: Las Vegas at Cleveland from Saturday to Monday; and Seattle at the Los Angeles Rams and Washington at Philadelphia from Sunday to Tuesday.
The Browns could have been without as many as 16 regulars on Saturday, so the game is now scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m. EST Monday. It will be televised by NFL Network.
Washington and Philadelphia will play at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, as will the Seahawks and Rams. Both games will be televised by Fox and available on Sunday Ticket.
“We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFLPA as we are seeing a new, highly transmissible form of the virus this week resulting in a substantial increase in cases across the league,” the NFL said in a statement. “We continue to make decisions in consultation with medical experts to ensure the health and safety of the NFL community.”
Previously, the NFL did not plan to move any games because of coronavirus outbreaks. It even said forfeits “could be in play.” But recent developments with the omicron strain of COVID-19 has changed the league’s thinking — as did several outbreaks across the league entering Week 15 of the season.
The move was not looked at kindly by some Raiders players.
“I pay my player dues just to get lied to and the rules bent! ” linebacker K.J. Wright tweeted at the league and the players’ union. “If it was the other way around I swear we would be playing tomorrow.”
Last season, in the midst of the coronavirus, the NFL completed its season on schedule, but had to reschedule 15 games, some to midweek. In July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell warned the 32 teams that no games would be rescheduled under such circumstances and, instead, forfeits could happen.
“As we learned last year, we can play a full season if we maintain a firm commitment to adhering to our health and safety protocols and to making needed adjustments in response to changing conditions,” Goodell said.
On Friday, those adjustments included more rescheduling.
Earlier Friday, Saints coach Sean Payton tested positive for COVID-19 and was immediately isolated from the team.
Payton, who is vaccinated and tested positive in 2020 for the coronavirus, will remain isolated for 10 days unless he meets the league requirements for a fully vaccinated individual to return to the team environment.
The Saints said defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been assigned head coaching duties for Sunday night’s game at Tampa Bay. Payton is expected to return for New Orleans’ game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 27.
The positive test for Payton comes after he missed practice Wednesday when the club said he was “under the weather” but had tested negative. Payton was back at practice and meetings on Thursday.
Payton’s positive test came as COVID-19 cases spiked across the NFL in recent days, mirroring trends seen in the general population.
Three Saints players — defensive end Cameron Jordan, running back Mark Ingram and receiver Ty Montgomery — did not play against the New York Jets on Sunday because of positive COVID-19 tests. But by Thursday, Jordan and Montgomery had been activated from New Orleans’ reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Saints (6-7) snapped a five-game skid when they beat the Jets 30-9 and remain in contention for one of the NFC’s wild-card playoff spots with four regular-season games remaining.
In Week 2 of this season, the Saints were without numerous assistant coaches because of a virus outbreak, but Payton was not among those which tested positive. Payton was among the first NFL employees known to have contracted COVID-19 in the spring of 2020.
Story by Barry Wilner