New England Patriots

Naomi Baker/Getty Images

If you thought the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases across the NFL was going to end up pausing the football season … LOL.

Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the league’s new COVID crisis with reporters, and was asked about the possibility of postponing or cancelling games. He basically said that the league isn’t even thinking about it.

“There has not been any discussion about [postponing games],” Goodell said (via Pro Football Talk). “We feel confident that with continuing changes and adaptions through our protocols that we can do that.”

Listen above for more NFL talk on the Sports Hub Underground podcast (starts at 40:20).

The league’s decision to press on with Week 15 comes as the Cleveland Browns have had to place nearly half their roster on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That includes quarterback Baker Mayfield, receiver Jarvis Landry, guard Wyatt Teller, tight ends David Njoku and Austin Hooper, and safety John Johnson III.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to even the looniest of COVID loons. No, the NFL is not going to shut down the season, not even for a week. Gotta play without half your starters because they got COVID? Tough. That’s why we implemented an expanded practice squad.

It’ll be quite the challenge for the Browns this weekend, having to face the Las Vegas Raiders with half a practice squad team. The same could be the case for the Washington Football Team and Los Angeles Rams, who have also placed over a dozen players on COVID reserve this week.

  • The Latest From Foxboro…

    Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates with cornerback Jalen Mills (2) and safety Adrian Phillips (21) and cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) after an interception against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty (32) celebrates with cornerback Jalen Mills (2) and safety Adrian Phillips (21) and cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) after an interception against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots haven’t been totally immune to the COVID invasion over the past week. They most recently placed offensive lineman Yasir Durant on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday.

    Durant joins running back J.J. Taylor and tight end Dalton Keene as the third Patriot to go on COVID reserve. Taylor has only been active for five games this season and Keene is spending the entire season on injured reserve, so the Patriots’ COVID “casualties” have been largely inconsequential to this point.

  • Butting Heads

    Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFLPA press conference in advance of the Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes_Benz Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFLPA press conference in advance of the Super Bowl LIII where the New England Patriots will play the Los Angeles Rams on Feb. 3, 2019 at Mercedes_Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

    COVID testing has become its own point of discussion as COVID pops off around the league. It’s led to something of a war of words between the league and players association.

    NFLPA president J.C. Tretter posted an article back in September that called for daily COVID testing for all players. The current protocol only requires daily testing for unvaccinated players, while the vaccinated are tested just once a week. Daily testing is only required for all players when teams are entered into the “enhanced” protocol, which is the case for the Browns.

    The NFLPA brought Tretter’s point back up in a tweet on Wednesday, essentially blaming the league for the rapid recent spread of the virus. Their point is that because vaccinated players weren’t tested for most of last week, COVID-19 unknowingly spread among them and it wasn’t until Monday of this week that the extent of the spread became known.

    And with that, NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills offered a retort. His argument is, essentially, that the virus didn’t spread because of a lack of testing, but because of a lack of proper safety measures being taken by the players.

    “We’ve got multiple examples where someone tested negative on one day, tested positive the following day and was able to spread to others in that 24-hour window,” Sills said. “We saw that last year, and we saw that this year. I think that tells you once again, testing doesn’t prevent transmission. You have to rely on those other measures to make sure we’re not creating spread within our facility.”

    Both guys have their points. If the league tested everyone daily, perhaps the most recent spread could have been contained better. But at the same time, if players were following the recommended safety guidelines better, they may not get COVID in the first place.

  • Compromise?

    DESSAU, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 23: An employee holds an ampoule into which the vaccine is later filled as German Health Minister Jens Spahn tours the lab facilities of vaccine maker IDT Biologika during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on November 23, 2020 in Dessau, Germany. IDT Biologika is currently conducting human trials for its potential vaccine against Covid-19. During the company visit, Spahn announced the planned purchase at least five million vaccine doses. (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt-Pool/Getty Images)

    DESSAU, GERMANY – NOVEMBER 23: An employee holds an ampoule into which the vaccine is later filled as German Health Minister Jens Spahn tours the lab facilities of vaccine maker IDT Biologika during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic on November 23, 2020 in Dessau, Germany. (Photo by Hendrik Schmidt-Pool/Getty Images)

    One thing the NFL is considering is reducing the amount of time it would take for unvaccinated, asymptomatic players to return to the team. Right now, any vaccinated player who tests positive needs to return two negatives at least 24 hours apart.

    Sills acknowledged that the league could modify their rules, in light of the fact that we’re dealing with a new variant that wasn’t around when the protocols were put in place. But he also said it’s not his concern to get players back on the football field quicker, but to make sure their return is safe.

    “I think those are ongoing discussions and things that we’ll consider, Sills said. “But again, it’s not about how soon we get them back. We want to bring them back when it’s safe for them and when they are not a risk to others in terms of transmission. We just have to update that now based on what we’re seeing with this new variant and its effect.”

    If I may cross sports for a moment, this is an idea that jibes with what Bruins forward Nick Foligno said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich this week. The NHL has daily testing and requires a 10-day minimum quarantine for all players who test positive, even if they’re unvaccinated, asymptomatic, and returning negative tests. Lot of healthy guys just sitting around doing nothing. The testing, and resulting quarantine procedures, seem excessive for certain players. And the testing obviously didn’t prevent the spread of the virus.

    Will the NFL be able to reach a compromise of some kind? Daily testing for everyone, but vaccinated & asymptomatic positives can return quicker? We’ll see. But what we’re definitely not going to see is a weekend without football.