The Seahawks game in Los Angeles has been moved to 4 p.m. Tuesday, the NFL announced Friday, because of the COVID-19 outbreak affecting the Rams.
The game had been set for Sunday.
As of Friday, the Rams have placed 29 players on the COVID-19 reserve list during the past week, including stars such as defensive end Von Miller, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
The game was one of three moved by the NFL on Friday after the quick spread of the coronavirus put 151 players on the reserve list this week after they tested positive.
The NFL in July took a hardline stance on moving games, saying the season would not be extended to accommodate an outbreak among unvaccinated players.
But in a statement released Friday afternoon, the league cited the rise of the omicron variant as a factor in moving the games. The Cleveland-Las Vegas game was moved from Saturday to Monday and Washington-Philadelphia from Sunday to Tuesday.
“The emergence of the omicron variant is precisely the kind of change that warrants a flexible response,” the memo stated.
The games were the first the NFL has moved this year. But they were simply the latest in a string of sporting events impacted by COVID. A Seattle Kraken game at Calgary scheduled for Thursday was postponed Friday as the Flames were one of three NHL teams to postpone all their games until after Christmas because of the surge in coronavirus cases. And the University of Washington men’s basketball team had to forfeit the Dec. 5 game against UCLA, cancel a game against Gonzaga a week later and reschedule a game at Arizona — all due to COVID.
The Seahawks were thought to be unhappy that the game was moved, in part because they have had just three players test positive all year, including two this week in receiver Tyler Lockett and running back Alex Collins, who each remain on the reserve list. Tight end Gerald Everett also missed two games in October.
But in a Zoom session with media Friday afternoon, coach Pete Carroll took a diplomatic approach, saying, “It doesn’t have anything to do with that, with a competitive disadvantage or advantage. We’re trying to get as many guys able to play as possible and with the thought of looking after everybody and making the right decisions in the midst of this surge we have seen in the league and around the country and around the world.”
Carroll said he could not say if Seattle’s players had tested positive for the omicron variant of the coronavirus. He did say that an assistant coach had tested positive as well as a couple others in the team’s facility in Renton.
Carroll, though, did note that Seattle will have a tight turnaround for its game on Dec. 26 against the Bears at Lumen Field. The Seahawks will not get back to Seattle until early Wednesday morning and then will have to practice through Christmas to get ready for the Bears.
“That’s a big concern,” Carroll said. “That’s a big burden on the players, a big burden on their recovery time.”
As the Rams cases mounted this week, some wondered whether Los Angeles might have to forfeit, noting the NFL’s protocols for the season announced in July.
“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,” the league stated in July.
Teams have 69 or 70 total players on their roster, including the practice squad, and can call up those players to replace those on the 53 who are on the COVID-19 reserve list. Teams need 44 to play, according to NFL rules.
But a game has to be forfeited if the outbreak was among unvaccinated players. Rams coach Sean McVay said this year that the team had close to a 100% vaccination rate and said early in the week that all the players initially impacted had been vaccinated.
In a release announcing the move Friday, the NFL stated: “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. We continue to make decisions in consultation with medical experts to ensure the health and safety of the NFL community.”
The changes were said to be made at the urging of the NFL Players Association, with a report from Yahoo.com stating the union argued with the league that the situation qualified as “uncontrolled spread despite adherence to protocols.”
Also a significant factor is that players from both teams would not have been paid in the event of a forfeit, and the Yahoo report stated “the goal of the union was to make sure all six teams’ players didn’t lose their game checks.”
Another reason the Seahawks are likely not happy with the move is that the Rams were coming off a Monday night game at Arizona, a contest Los Angeles won to improve to 9-4. Seattle played last Sunday in Houston and would have had an extra day of rest for the game. Now, not only will the Rams potentially get back players on the list but the rest and preparation periods will be evened out.
But when asked about the move not favoring Seattle, Carroll said, “I can’t do anything about that. I just wish nobody was getting sick.”
Carroll, though, was left wondering if the move will prove worth it. While the NFL has altered some of its return-to-play protocols in a hope to get players back more quickly, Carroll noted there is no guarantee and that “If that doesn’t happen [players getting back], then I don’t know why we did it. But we’ll see what happens.”
News of the move did not appear popular among some Seahawks on social media.
Snapper Tyler Ott quote tweeted “Ha!” in response to a tweet from former Seahawk K.J. Wright — now playing for the Raiders, whose game against Cleveland was moved to Monday — “We agreed that their wouldn’t be any postponed game this season right?!”
Safety Quandre Diggs responded to the same tweet with, “Lol you what this is all about!”
Carroll, though, insisted that “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 are going to look at this thing.”
The game will remain televised on FOX.
The NFL on Thursday announced changes to return-to-play protocols for vaccinated players that the league hopes will allow more players to come back more quickly. Essentially, if players get a negative test and a rapid negative test in the same day, they’ll be cleared to return. Previously, players needed to test negative twice, 24 hours apart.
Los Angeles beat the Seahawks in Seattle 26-17 on Oct. 7. Seattle is 5-8 after a 33-13 win over the Texans on Sunday to keep its slim playoff hopes alive.