The NFL postponed three games for the week due to Covid outbreaks, moving games featuring the Raiders and Browns, Football Team and Eagles, and Seahawks and Rams to Monday and Tuesday evening respectively. Naturally the decision upset many players and fans with some people taking to social media and basically saying that the teams who have been hit with Covid should forfeit.
The forfeit talk is partially the NFL’s own doing. The NFL released a set of rules back in July which made it sound as if the concept of rescheduling was off the table. The reality was that was never the case. The rules gave the NFL about a million different avenues to reschedule games but they emphasized (or at least reports emphasized) harsh consequences for unvaccinated players which would impact entire teams including forfeits.
The purpose of all that stuff back in July was to gain wider acceptance of the vaccine so the league could attempt to go back to business as usual and lessen all the restrictions and testing that had to occur back in 2020. It would really be hard to imagine a situation where the NFL would just cancel a game and leave their TV partners and fans without a game featuring the two home markets.
It is important to also realize that if the game is forfeited that the players involved in the game would not get paid for the week despite spending the time practicing and doing everything needed to prepare for a game. That would extend to both teams regardless of which team was more responsible for the game cancellation. That would mean that players would lose out on their paragraph 5 salary for the week as well as any per game roster bonuses, if applicable.
How much was at stake? Here is a rough estimate for the six teams which were impacted by the postponement.
By no means is that an insignificant amount of money if you are a player. Million of dollars would have bene lost to the players simply because the NFL decided the cancel a game. So while I think you can argue with the NFL making players have such a quick turnaround for next week (really the teams playing on Tuesday should get their games moved to the following Monday) I don’t think there is much of an argument for just cancelling the game.
The question is could the teams have played the games this week? Here is a breakdown of the rosters around the NFL, give or take a player or two.
I think it is clear that the Rams would have had a difficult time playing Sunday. They only have 43 available players and that includes their practice squad. The Rams are dealing with a major outbreak with 13 players added to the Covid list on Friday alone and there is no guarantee that the number will not be under 40 by the time Sunday rolled around. While there is no assurance that things change by early in the week, at least it gives them a chance to get some players back for the game.
The other two teams, the Browns and Football Team, are probably a little more questionable. The Browns have 51 players available as of Friday night which is probably enough to play a game, but like the Rams they are right in the middle of things. They had 7 players added to the Covid list on Friday and were supposed to play on Saturday which gave them no chance of it getting better and if anything it had a chance to be worse.
With Washington is where we get into a little bit more of the questionable area. They have 56 players available which is a pretty solid number. They only had three players added on Friday so while their situation is not ideal it is not trending the same way as the Browns and Rams which were still exploding. They only have three more players available than the Giants who have a 59 man roster this week, though the Giants are less impacted by Covid and are simply beat up.
There is also the concern that things can spread. The last thing the NFL wants, especially going into the playoffs, is a leaguewide outbreak. If you have teams where Covid is rapidly spreading the last thing you want to do is create an environment where it moves from team to team if you can prevent it. With the teams going into more of an isolation mode this should hopefully ensure that the players on the field and sidelines are not going to cause an outbreak among the opponent. That is more likely the reason the Washington game was moved than simply the roster size and I don’t think that is a hard one to argue with.
If there is a team to keep an eye on it would be the Bears. Chicago is scheduled to play Monday against the Vikings. They only have a 60 man roster and have 12 players on the Covid list, eight of whom were added on either Thursday or Friday. If there was a surge over the next day or two I can’t see how their situation would be any different than Washington’s. Hopefully that does not happen but the league should be thinking of contingency plans if that does happen.