As of this writing, the Cleveland Browns officially have 23 players on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, though a 24th will be added later today, as edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney tested positive yesterday after the transaction deadline. That list of dozens includes a host of starters, including multiple offensive linemen, and quarterback Baker Mayfield—as well as backup Case Keenum.
But with the NFL postponing their game against the Raiders to Monday, after originally being scheduled to be played today, and with the loosening of return-to-play protocols, the Browns’ Reserve/COVID-19 List is expected to look much different by the time things actually kick off.
Dan Graziano of ESPN yesterday, for example, wrote that a few players from the Browns (as well as the Rams, another team that has experienced an in-facility outbreak this week), “already have met the testing requirements to be removed from the reserve/COViD list under the new protocols that were announced Thursday”.
In other words, a lot of the players who wouldn’t be available today will almost surely be available Monday. Already, linebacker Anthony Walker is set to be removed from the list today, and tight end David Njoku has come off the list previously.
The Raiders, meanwhile, have no current COVID-19 cases, one of the few at the moment who can claim that—and many of their players are not happy that the game is being played at all, even if as a result of multiple misunderstandings, including the fact that they wouldn’t get paid for a game that they do not play.
For starters, as was contained in the original memo that everybody is citing over the past 24 hours, a forfeit would only be on the table in the event that a game could not be rescheduled—all games have already been rescheduled. And it would only apply if an outbreak among unvaccinated players were the cause for the postponement or cancellation.
So forfeiture has never even been on the table in the first place, based on the league’s own standards that everybody had the power to be aware of well before the season started. In fact, I already wrote about it back in July. The language is actually quite clear:
“If a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule and is cancelled, due to a Covid outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the competing teams”, it reads, “the club with the outbreak will forfeit the contest and will be deemed to have played 16 games for the purposes of draft, waiver priority, etc”.
The Omicron variant did not exist—as far as we know—when this original memo was written. It’s a variant that is proving to be, perhaps by far, the most contagious yet, and it changes the conversation, since the variables have changed.