CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns, like several other teams around the National Football League, are in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak involving vaccinated, and, in some cases, boosted individuals.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield and five other players joined head coach Kevin Stefanski today and eight players placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list yesterday, along with three others who were on the list prior.
So what happens when a roster is decimated by positive COVID-19 cases? Here are the rules the NFL laid out this summer.
The league will make every reasonable effort, consistent with underlying health and safety principles, to complete the full 272-game regular season within the current 18 weeks and all postseason games as scheduled, in a safe and responsible way. This is grounded in a commitment to players, coaches, fans, and business partners. We do not anticipate adding a "19th week" to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season.
The NFL made it clear that postponing games would not be something they'd like to do. In the first season with 17 games on the schedule, the league said it does not anticipate adding another week to the schedule to play postponed games.
But postponements, while not a "right" for clubs, can happen this season.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said this summer that while unlikely, postponements can occur if "required by government authorities, medical experts, or at the Commissioner's discretion."
The league falls back to its roster flexibility rules, with COVID-19 elevations and extra practice squad space among the rules carried over from last season, as the reason it will not postpone or reschedule games "simply to avoid roster issues caused by injury or illness affecting multiple players, even within a position group."
While a postponement of Saturday's Browns game is possible, an NFL spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the Browns COVID-19 outbreak in regards to the upcoming game:
There’s been no discussion of a change to the game’s status.
The silver lining, if one is to be found, is that the Browns' COVID-19 outbreak doesn't put them at risk for forfeiture.
In the league's rules, if a game can not be rescheduled within the current 18-week season and was canceled due to an outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak would be forced to forfeit and credited with a loss.
The Browns are experiencing an outbreak among vaccinated individuals, so the forfeiture rule does not apply.
So if the game is not postponed, and it seems to be trending that way, the Browns may just find themselves having to put a starting lineup of practice squad players and free agent additions on the field on Saturday.
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