It took 6 percent of NFL players testing positive for COVID-19 in one week for the league to move off its previously implacable position that it wouldn’t postpone games as a result of the pandemic.
This week was one of the league’s worst, with a massive outbreak and multiple teams placing 10 or more players on their respective COVID reserve lists. With bye weeks done, every team is scheduled to play every week for the remainder of the season, including teams with rampant COVID. Those teams will have little time to recover from their issues.
On Friday, the NFL postponed three games — Raiders at Browns, Seahawks at Rams and Washington at Eagles — one day after announcing new COVID protocols.
The protocols were met with criticism, most notably from Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, but the scorn for the postponements was more leaguewide, given their wide-reaching nature.
Notably, Raiders and Eagles players took to Twitter to air their grievances. Las Vegas and Philadelphia are among the teams with the fewest players on the COVID reserve list, while Cleveland and Washington have the most.
Raiders owner Mark Davis highlighted how his team is fully vaccinated and will now be playing on back-to-back short weeks. Beyond that, he took issue with the fact that last year, several Raiders offensive linemen missed time with COVID but the league didn’t postpone any of the team’s games, while it is postponing a game this year after an opponent’s outbreak.
A similar situation arose last year when the Broncos were down all their regular quarterbacks and had to use wide receiver Kendall Hinton at the position. The league didn’t postpone that game, either, and the Broncos lost 31-3 to the Saints.
Free-agent defensive back Tre Boston, who has no stake in any of these games, reminded everyone of that.
Two players who are being directly impacted — Raiders linebacker K.J. Wright and cornerback Casey Hayward — took the NFL Players Association to task for its part in this decision and its overall handling of the protocols.
Eagles Pro Bowl defensive back Darius Slay noted that the complaints are coming not because he and other players are scared or trying to duck competition, but because their respective teams were and doing what was asked when others weren’t.
Slay’s teammate Rodney McLeod posted a similar sentiment.
It remains to be seen whether anything might change going forward and whether the NFL and NFLPA can reach a consensus on protocols that satisfy everyone.
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