NFL postpones three games amid Covid-19 surge
Los Angeles (AFP) – The NFL has postponed three weekend games amid a Covid-19 surge that has "seen a substantial increase in cases across the league."
The league announced Friday that Saturday's game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cleveland Browns has been moved to Monday, while Sunday's meeting between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles, and the Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams game have been moved to Tuesday.
"We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFL Players' Association 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.
As of Friday, the Browns had 24 players -- including a dozen starters -- either testing positive for Covid this week or remained on the Covid reserve list from tests last week.
The sidelined players included not only starting quarterback Baker Mayfield but also backup Case Keenum, and the NFLPA had reportedly been urging postponement of the game since Thursday.
The Rams had 25 players on the Covid list, including receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Twenty-one of those players had landed on the reserve list since Tuesday.
Washington also had more than 20 players on the Covid-19 reserve list, including quarterback Taylor Heinicke and backup Kyle Allen.
On Wednesday, as the Browns cases mounted up, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there "has not been any discussion" about postponing games.
On Thursday, the league revealed enhanced safety protocols designed to slow the surge throughout the league, which follows a relatively trouble-free opening three months of the season.
The spike in positive cases comes amid global concern over the spread of the Omicron variant, which has been blamed for a fresh wave of infections.
The NFL said Thursday that all players coaches and staff will be required to wear face coverings in team facilities regardless of vaccination status, and all team meetings must be conducted either outdoors or remotely.
Players will be forbidden from dining together in groups. Meals will be "grab-and-go" and players must be seated 10 feet apart from each other.
No outside visitors will be permitted during team travel.
The league said it would "strongly encourage" players getting booster shots, but did not issue a mandate.
At the same time, the league also tweaked its return-to-play protocols for vaccinated players who test positive for Covid-19 but are asymptomatic.
Under the previous rules, a vaccinated player testing positive must produce two negative tests 24 hours apart before being able to return.
The new protocol uses measures of "viral load" that could allow for a speedier return to play for vaccinated players who test negative.
© 2021 AFP