Growing number of NFL players testing positive for COVID-19 threatens to impact season

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A rising number of NFL players are testing positive for COVID-19, many of them stars, which is leading some sports fans as well as football analysts to wonder how much their absences will affect their teams at a crucial point in the season.

This week alone, dozens of players have tested positive — 37 on Monday and nearly three dozen more on Tuesday, the latter group including Los Angeles Rams wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Johnson, all of whom were placed in the league’s COVID protocols.

The Rams and the Cleveland Browns were particularly hard-hit, the New York Post reported, and for the Browns, it marks the second season in a row the team is dealing with a major outbreak as they are set to make a playoff bid.

“Cleveland’s postseason hopes took a hit Tuesday when the team placed eight players, including top wide receiver Jarvis Landry, tight end Austin Hooper and starting offensive linemen Wyatt Teller and Jedrick Wills Jr. on the reserve/COVID-19 list,” The Post reported, adding that all of them will miss a critical game on Saturday against the Las Vegas Raiders who, at 6-7, are also fighting for a playoff bid against the ascendant Chiefs.

“We’ll get our work in,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski noted. “That’s what we do. We’ve done it before.”

Since the Browns are playing on Saturday instead of Sunday, it’ll be tough for those affected players to become eligible in time. To do so, vaccinated players placed on the COVID list have to be asymptomatic and have two negative tests within 24 hours, while unvaccinated players have to sit out for 10 days.

The Rams are in worse shape: In addition to Beckham, safety Jordan Fuller and eight others were placed on the list Tuesday, bringing the team’s total to 13.

“Coach Sean McVay said the Rams have shut down their training complex in Thousand Oaks for at least two days under the NFL’s intensive protocols,” The Post reported. “They will conduct meetings virtually Wednesday and won’t hold a practice, although they were unlikely to hold a significant workout anyway on a short week of preparation to host Seattle on Sunday.”

In addition, the team activated tight end Tyler Higbee from the list, which appears to indicate that he missed Monday Night Football’s 30-23 victory of the division rival Arizona Cardinals because of a false positive test.

In Kansas City, wideout Josh Gordon tested positive for the virus on Monday. His team is facing the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers at home in a crucial AFC West match-up on Thursday night.

The Associated Press adds that on Tuesday, the league “reported 28 more positive tests among players in the league’s worst two-day outbreak since the pandemic started.”

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