For the past three weeks, NFL teams have been hit hard with COVID-19 cases because of the rise of the Omicron variant throughout the world.
More than 100 players have already landed on the COVID/reserve list ahead of Week 17 games, and there were 96 positive tests alone on Monday, a new high for a single day.
At the start of Week 16, more than 200 players were on the COVID/reserve list. At the beginning of Week 17, various players are being activated, but dozens more are being put into the league’s protocols. One of the bigger names to go on the list in Week 17 is Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans. The Bucs were already dealing with a significant loss to their offensive unit, as running back Leonard Fournette is on the list, too.
Sporting News has the list of all of the players who have entered COVID-19 protocols ahead of Week 17 games.
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NFL players in league COVID protocols
(Based on official team rosters as of Dec. 27)
Arizona Cardinals (one player)
Atlanta Falcons (eight players)
Baltimore Ravens (12 players)
Buffalo Bills (eight players)
Carolina Panthers (seven players)
Chicago Bears (four players)
Cincinnati Bengals (four players)
Cleveland Browns (12 players)
Dallas Cowboys (three players)
Denver Broncos (four players)
Detroit Lions (13 players)
Green Bay Packers (six players)
Houston Texans (22 players)
Indianapolis Colts (12 players)
Jacksonville Jaguars (15 players)
Kansas City Chiefs (nine players)
Las Vegas Raiders (four players)
Los Angeles Chargers (12 players)
Los Angeles Rams (three players)
Miami Dolphins (eight players)
Minnesota Vikings (four players)
New England Patriots (six players)
New Orleans Saints (21 players)
New York Giants (14 players)
New York Jets (19 players)
Philadelphia Eagles (seven players)
Pittsburgh Steelers (five players)
Seattle Seahawks (six players)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (five players)
Tennessee Titans (eight players)
Washington Football Team (10 players)
NFL COVID vaccine rules
Here is the COVID protocol for vaccinated players, according to the NFL:
The main difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated players is that vaccinated players don’t have to worry about being a “high-risk” close contact at any point. They also have more freedom to participate in activities than their unvaccinated counterparts. Vaccinated players can go out on the road and more easily spend time with teammates outside the facility, among other perks.
What is NFL’s COVID protocol for unvaccinated players?
The NFL’s COVID protocols are stricter than those for vaccinated players. They are as follows, per the NFL:
Unvaccinated players also have more procedures they must follow to avoid falling into COVID protocol. They include the following:
When is a player considered fully vaccinated?
The NFL considers a player fully vaccinated if they fall into one of the two following categories: They either are 14 days removed from their final dose of Pfizer, Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or they previously contracted COVID and are 14 days removed from a single dose of any vaccine.
Will the NFL postpone games because of COVID?
The NFL has left the door open for potential postponements. That said, the league has said that “postponements will only occur if required by government authorities, medical experts, or at the commissioner’s discretion.”
Of course, the NFL has also said that it’s hoping to play its full, 272-game schedule “in a safe and responsible way,” so it seems likely that the league will consider postponements where appropriate.
However, the NFL has noted that the burden of postponements or cancellations will fall upon teams featuring COVID spikes among unvaccinated players. If outbreaks occur among vaccinated players, the league will seek to “minimize the burden” of that club.
If a game is canceled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a COVID spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the COVID infection. We will seek to minimize the burden on the opposing club or clubs. If a club cannot play due to a COVID spike in vaccinated individuals, we will attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both participating teams.
What does that mean? If a team has an outbreak that impacts unvaccinated players, they’re less likely to get a favorable ruling from the NFL. So, they may be forced to play significantly shorthanded or at a less convenient time.
The NFL also has stated that if a game cannot be rescheduled within its 18-week season due to a COVID outbreak amid non-vaccinated players, the team with the outbreak will be forced to forfeit.
Additionally, the league said that “games will not be postponed or rescheduled simply to avoid roster issues caused by injury or illness affecting multiple players, even within a position group.” The Broncos were the best example of that principle in action. They had to play with practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton as their quarterback after their QB room was exposed to the virus.
Will the NFL add an extra week because of COVID postponements?
No, it’s not planning to add an extra week to the schedule. The NFL confirmed that they are hoping not to extend the regular season past 18 weeks (17 games and one bye).
“We do not anticipate adding a ’19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.”
Perhaps the NFL will change its tune if COVID becomes a bigger issue than the league anticipates, but for now, don’t expect the league to add another week to the season.
Jake Aferiat contributed to this article.
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