RENTON -- Due to a substantial COVID-19 outbreak with the Los Angeles Rams, this week's game for the the Seahawks has been moved to Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. PT
The game is one of three games this weekend that are being rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues. Saturday's scheduled game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Cleveland Browns is moving to Monday at 2 p.m. PT. The Washington Football Team at the Philadelphia Eagles is also moving to Tuesday and will kickoff concurrently with the Seahawks-Rams at 4 p.m. PT.
As of Friday, the Rams had 29 players on their COVID-19 reserve list, including many prominent starters such as Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr., Darrell Henderson Jr., Rob Havenstein and Sebastian Joseph-Day. Tyler Higbee, Jamil Demby and two more practice squad players were placed on the list on Friday. The Browns and Washington also have been hit with large numbers of positive COVID-19 cases.
"I can't do anything about that. I just wish nobody was getting sick," head coach Pete Carroll said on Friday.
"It doesn't have anything to do with that, with competitive disadvantage or advantage, I don't think. We're trying to get as many guys able to play as possible with the thought of looking after everybody and making the right decisions in the midst of this kind of surge that we've seen in the league and around the country and around the world, and we're trying to make good decisions. As so many decisions we make, we don't have a lot of background on these things. You know, you just got to figure it out what you're going to do and go for it. We're not going to let this affect us at all. We have already jumped into our adjustment and all that and we'll go play. It's going to be Tuesday instead of on Sunday. So that's the only way we're going to look at the thing."
While Carroll isn't being outwardly bothered by the notion that the Seahawks are being disadvantaged by the Rams getting two extra days to get players back on the roster, he is concerned about the following week being significantly shortened for Seattle before their game next Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
"That's a big concern," Carroll said. "Anytime you play a Thursday game or this is like a Friday game, I think, it's a big burden on the players. It's a big burden on the recovery time. It's not what their bodies want to do. They're trained to have a whole weekend to recover and they don't get it. So in that regard, if our game could move back to Monday, that would help us some. That would kind of get in the middle of the next week as well. So I don't know what's going to happen, but not a fan of that for the players' sake."
The postponements have caused a furor around the league from players.
A July NFL memo said that "In light of the substantial roster flexibility in place for the 2021 season, absent medical considerations or government directives, 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."
Many players on the teams not facing large COVID outbreaks are angry their games have been moved because of this intent from the league before the season. They believe the games should be played as scheduled or their opponent should forfeit. However, if a team was forced to forfeit a game, both teams would be unpaid for the week.
The NFL sent a memo to teams on Friday after making the scheduling changes detailing the situation.
From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, our focus has been to play our games in a safe and responsible way, consistent with the best available medical and public health advice, based on protocols jointly developed and implemented with the NFL Players Association. A key element of our success to date has been our commitment to working with our union and our respective medical experts to make needed adjustments in response to changing conditions.
The emergence of the Omicron variant is precisely the kind of change that warrants a flexible response. Based on medical advice, we have instituted additional protocols as well as revised testing protocols for reinstating players and staff who have tested positive. We have also considered whether certain games should be rescheduled in light of current conditions.
The memo also states the expectation is all three games will be played in their newly rescheduled times and will not be moved to a later date or time.
The NFL made sweeping changes to its COVID-19 protocols on Thursday in coordination with the NFL Players' Association. The changes include the rules by which a vaccinated player can return to action. Previously, the protocol said a player must have two negative PCR tests on consecutive days in order to return to action. Under the new rules, a player has much more flexibility to get cleared to play. The threshold is still two negative tests. However, the tests can be either the PCR tests or the rapid, MESA, tests. Additionally, the tests can be taken concurrently instead of needing to be separated by 24 hours. These changes allow for a player to potentially be cleared to return faster than under the previous protocols.
The negative tests would still need to be registered prior to the 1 p.m. PT deadline on Saturday for roster moves for a player to play in a game on Sunday.
"Throughout the pandemic we have continuously evolved our protocols to meet our goal of advancing the safety of the players, coaches and staff," the NFL said in a statement on Thursday. "The changes we are making today aim to address the increase in cases and the advent of the Omicron variant. Effective immediately, all clubs will implement preventative measures that have proven effective: masking regardless of vaccination status, remote or outdoor meetings, eliminating in-person meals, and no outside visitors while on team travel. We will continue to strongly encourage booster shots as the most effective protection. Finally, and based on expert advice, we will adjust the return-to-participation requirements for those who have recovered from COVID-19. All of these changes are grounded in our data and science-backed approach, with safety our number-one goal for the entire NFL community."
The presumption is that the delay of the game two days will allow for more players to be available to play. Carroll said he's interested to see if that ultimately proves to be the case.
"It's gonna be really fascinating to see what happens here is by changing the game for two days, you know, did more guys get to play? You know, in terms of the COVID thing. I'm really curious about how that's gonna work out. We'll learn a lot. If that doesn't happen, then I don't know why we did it. But we'll see what happens though and wish everybody the best," Carroll said.
The additional two days before the Seahawks play the Rams will give them a bit more rest as well before needing to suit up.
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett and running back Alex Collins are both feeling better after being placed on the COVID-19 list on Thursday. They have yet to begin testing negative so their ability to return in time for Tuesday's game remains uncertain.
"Those guys, they're OK now," Carroll said. "Tyler had a little bit of a tough day, but he's OK now. So he's just waiting [it] out. Those guys are gonna try to test their way back in. We'll see what happens."
The team has had no other positive cases on the roster. However, Carroll said a coach and other members of the staff in the team's facility have also tested positive this week.
Though the team did not have to disclose playing status on Friday with the change of date for the game, they still had a practice report. Only tackle Brandon Shell (shoulder) and defensive tackle Bryan Mone (knee) did not participate in practice on Friday.
Wide receivers DK Metcalf (foot/back), Freddie Swain (ankle) and Dee Eskridge (foot), safety Quandre Diggs, defensive end Carlos Dunlap (quadriceps) and guard Gabe Jackson (knee) were all full participants on Friday and are expected to play against the Rams on Tuesday after missing the first two days of practice this week.
Shell has been dealing with the shoulder injury for many weeks before being held out of last week's game against the Houston Texans. Mone injured the PCL in his knee last week against the Texans and was held out of practice most of the week.
Photo Credit: INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by Terrell Lewis #52 of the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at SoFi Stadium on November 15, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)