With more than 20 Cleveland players on the COVID-19 list, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to postpone the Browns’ game against the Las Vegas Raiders to Monday.
The game, originally scheduled for Saturday, will be played at 5 p.m. ET as a part of a Monday night doubleheader with the Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears already scheduled for 8:20 p.m. ET.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams’ game versus the visiting Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Football Team’s game at Philadelphia have both been moved to Tuesday because both Los Angeles and Washington have 20-plus COVID cases.
Washington-Philly and Rams-Seahawks will kick off at 7 p.m. ET.
“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.
“The emergence of the Omicron variant is precisely the kind of change that warrants a flexible response,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo sent to all 32 teams explaining the schedule moves. Goodell added that the league “will make every effort” to play the full schedule within the current 18 weeks.
The Browns have placed 24 players on the COVID-reserve list. More than a dozen of those players are key starters. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, running back Kareem Hunt, starting defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and head coach Kevin Stefanski are all sidelined with the virus.
In a statement, Browns spokesperson Peter John-Baptiste said, “Although we are unable to disclose specifics, we are fortunate that every member of our organization who has recently tested positive was vaccinated, the majority of which are currently asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms.”
Keenum’s positive test meant that third-string quarterback Nick Mullens was in position to start. Mullens had been on the practice squad until this week.
Seeking emergency options at the game’s most important position, the Browns reached a deal Friday to sign quarterback Kyle Lauletta off the practice squad of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had been with Browns throughout the offseason and training camp.
The NFL has made it clear that it will not postpone games because of competitive disadvantage. But the high number of players sidelined could cause safety risks.
It’s possible that the Browns could receive reinforcements within the next couple days because the NFL’s protocols for return to action (updated this week) allow players to test out of quarantine sooner than the standard 10-day window. Any vaccinated player or coach who is asymptomatic and able to produce two negative tests taken at the same time can return to action as long as their viral levels are below the threshold that would make them contagious.
In the last week, more than 100 players league-wide have tested positive for COVID-19.
Contributing: Nate Ulrich