The NFL announced a change in the Week 15 schedule Friday that delays three games by a few days after more players tested positive for COVID-19 amid the onset of the omicron variant.
Saturday's game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns has been moved to 5 p.m. Monday, while Sunday's games between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles as well as the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams have been moved to 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"We have made these schedule changes based on medical advice and after discussion with the NFLPA 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. "We continue to make decisions in consultation with medical experts to ensure the health and safety of the NFL community."
Commissioner Roger Goodell also sent a memo to every team that promised to try and complete the current schedule within the 18 weeks slotted.
"The emergence of the Omicron variant is precisely the kind of change that warrants a flexible response," Goodell said.
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In addition, the league updated its COVID-19 protocols, which include allowing fully vaccinated players to return to the active list a day after testing positive for the virus if they test negative twice within 24 hours and are asymptomatic. Other changes include outdoor or remote meetings only, masking indoors for every player regardless of vaccination status, limiting the number of players in the workout room to 15, and prohibiting any visitors outside of the league when traveling.
"At some point, you feel like you are fighting a ghost," Falcons owner Arthur Blank said of the updated policies. "You don't know where to swing."
On Wednesday, it was reported that approximately 100 players tested positive over a three-day span. As of Friday, the Cleveland Browns had 20 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including its starting and backup quarterbacks. The Los Angeles Rams are also facing a major shortage of players after nine new members were moved to the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, bringing their total on the reserve/COVID-19 list to 21 players.
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The NFL playoffs are set to begin Jan. 15, and the Super Bowl is slated for Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, California. Last year, the NFL limited the audience at the Super Bowl to 25,000 due to the pandemic.