Week 9’s “Thursday Night Football” game is in jeopardy due to a reported positive COVID-19 test for the 49ers on Wednesday morning.
San Francisco is scheduled to host the Packers at 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday night in Santa Clara, California. After a coronavirus positive for Green Bay running back AJ Dillon earlier in the week, it seemed like things had cleared up for the game to be played as planned. But the NFL’s schedule is at least temporarily in flux while the league conducts its conduct-tracing protocols with the 49ers, who shut down their facility.
Here’s what we know so far on the facility’s closing and what scheduling options could exist if the NFL is forced to move Thursday’s game.
Why did the 49ers shut down their facility?
The 49ers shut down their facility on Wednesday morning due to COVID-19 test results, according to multiple reports. NBC Sports’ Jennifer Lee Chan reported that at least one COVID-19 test had come back positive for the 49ers. Schefter reported that the positive test was wide receiver Kendrick Bourne.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the San Francisco facility was closed as a precaution, and the 49ers were going through the NFL’s contact tracing protocols.
There had been a cloud of doubt over Thursday’s game because of a positive COVID-19 test for the Packers’ AJ Dillon from Sunday, but contact tracing ruled two other players out, and no other Green Bay players had tested positive through Wednesday morning. That meant that the game was good to go until the news of the 49ers’ positive test.
Will the Packers and 49ers play on ‘Thursday Night Football’?
As of mid-day Wednesday, no official determinations have been made about the status of Packers-49ers. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the game is still planned to be played as of 12:20 p.m. ET Wednesday.
The Packers aren’t scheduled to fly until Wednesday evening, according to The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. That likely gives the NFL a handful of hours to come up with its solution and learn more from the initial contact tracing that happens in San Francisco.
When could Packers vs. 49ers be played if not Thursday night?
The Packers have already had their bye, so doing bye-week configuration likely wouldn’t work in this scenario. San Francisco’s bye comes in Week 11, when Green Bay is already scheduled to play in Indianapolis.
If the NFL decides to move this game but determines there isn’t a COVID-19 outbreak on the 49ers, it could follow the precedent it set in Week 6 with the Bills-Chiefs game. That was originally scheduled for Thursday night, but because Bills-Titans in Week 5 had to be moved back two nights following Tennessee’s outbreak, the league moved Bills-Chiefs to a second Monday night game to end Week 6.
Following that example might not work perfectly because Packers-49ers is scheduled to be played on the west coast at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The current “Monday Night Football” game is Patriots at Jets at 8:15 p.m. ET Monday. It would make more sense for the league to kick that game between east-coast teams off at 5 p.m. ET like it did with Bills-Chiefs while slotting Packers-49ers into the 8:15 p.m. ET window. There’d likely be pushback on that maneuvering from ESPN, the rightsholder of “Monday Night Football,” though.
While the NFL hasn’t done such a thing yet this season, it could also move Packers-49ers into a late-afternoon Sunday kickoff, with Fox currently only broadcasting Raiders-Chargers in that window. If the game is to be played in Week 9, it’s unlikely the NFL would try anything other than moving the game to Sunday or Monday.
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