Friday's NFL: 3 games moved due to COVID-19 outbreaks

Associated Press

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.

Three people with knowledge of the decisions told The Associated Press about the changes on Friday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the league had not yet announced the new schedule.

A fan holds a Baker Mayfield cutout during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Cleveland. The Browns won 24-22.

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. Washington and Philadelphia will play at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and the timing for the Seahawks-Rams game was uncertain.

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 this Sunday night’s game at Tampa Bay. Payton is expected to return for New Orleans' subsequent game against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 27.

The positive test for Payton comes after he missed practice on 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 have 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.

Bills QB Allen expected to start Sunday

Orchard Park, N.Y. — Bills quarterback Josh Allen is expected to start Sunday against Carolina after he got hurt last weekend against Tampa Bay.

Allen sprained his left foot in the second half of Buffalo’s 33-27 overtime loss to the Buccaneers.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) throws a pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.

“They’re comfortable with where he’s at and he continues to trend in the right direction,” coach Sean McDermott said Friday.

That’s welcome news for the 7-6 Bills, who are fighting for an AFC wild card after losing three of their last four games. Allen nearly led the Bills to a comeback win over the Bucs, passing for 308 yards and gaining 109 on the ground.

Allen could be without his starting left tackle against the Panthers after Dion Dawkins was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. It’s the second time Dawkins has contracted the coronavirus; he detailed his scary bout with the disease earlier this summer after he was hospitalized.

“That’s the first place your mind goes to, how this person will handle it,” McDermott said. “In this case he’s had it before, certainly had some challenges there. We’re going to do all we can to support him and make sure that No. 1 he is as healthy as possible, or can get as healthy as possible as soon as possible.”

Dawkins is vaccinated, so he has not yet been ruled out for Sunday’s game.

As a precautionary measure, the Bills shifted to virtual meetings on Friday morning.

Receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with a knee injury. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (toe) and running back Taiwan Jones (knee) are questionable.

Heinicke to COVID list, Washington QB plan at Eagles unclear

Washington put Taylor Heinicke on the NFL’s COVID-19/reserve list Friday, making the team's quarterback plan for the upcoming game at Philadelphia a complete uncertainty.

Based on updated league rules, Heinicke could still play if he tests negative twice this weekend and remains asymptomatic. Backup Kyle Allen entered coronavirus protocol on Tuesday and also remains a possibility if he is cleared.

Practice squad QB Kyle Shurmur would be in line to start if neither Heinicke nor Allen is available. He played at Vanderbilt and is the son of Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

Washington also signed Garrett Gilbert off New England's practice squad on Friday. Gilbert has one NFL start with Dallas but is familiar with coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner from their time together in 2018 with the Carolina Panthers.