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#pounditMonday, January 24, 2022

Articles tagged: NFL

NFL no longer treating unvaccinated players differently for testing

Roger Goodell at a press conference

The NFL initially had major rule differences for vaccinated and unvaccinated players, but they are eliminating one of those significant differences.

According to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL is no longer distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated players when it comes to testing for COVID. Previously, unvaccinated players were tested daily while vaccinated players only were tested when they were symptomatic. Now there will only be testing when someone has symptoms, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID.

The NFL has completely shifted to only testing players for COVID if they are sick.

This policy change in part helps explain why positive COVID tests have not seemed to affect the NFL playoffs so far. Additionally, several players have already recovered from COVID recently and are not tested for 90 days after having COVID.

Between the two factors, the NFL is unlikely to see a significant number of positive COVID tests in the near future.

The NFL is not the only league that is shifting towards testing only those who are symptomatic; the NHL is doing the same.

Photo: Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Asymptomatic NFL players could return after just 1 day

Roger Goodell

The NFL and NFL Players Association announced some changes to the league’s COVID-19 policy on Thursday, and one of them clears a path for certain players who test positive to return sooner.

Previously, vaccinated players and staff who tested positive for COVID-19 had to return two negative tests 24 hours apart in order to be cleared to return. Under the new protocols, vaccinated players and staff who are not experiencing symptoms will potentially be able to return the day after their positive test. They’ll only need to test negative once rather than twice.

COVID cases have increased across the NFL this week. But as Pelissero notes, the majority of players who have tested positive are not experiencing any symptoms.

The Cleveland Browns have had Baker Mayfield and several other offensive starters test positive. Head coach Kevin Stefanski also produced a positive test, though both he and Mayfield have said they are not experiencing symptoms. The new protocol change will at least give players and coaches who are not ill a chance to return to practice and games sooner.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL considering significant change to COVID policy

Roger Goodell

There has been an increase in COVID-19 cases across the NFL this week, and the league is considering a change to its current policy as a result.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the NFL is exploring the idea of giving vaccinated, asymptomatic players a quicker path to returning to team activities. Currently, vaccinated individuals who test positive but have no symptoms must produce two negative tests 24 hours apart in order to be cleared. That could be shortened, according to Maske.

Several teams could be shorthanded this weekend due to COVID-19 protocols. The Cleveland Browns have had Baker Mayfield and several other offensive starters test positive. Head coach Kevin Stefanski also produced a positive test, though both he and Mayfield have said they are not experiencing symptoms.

Maske noted that it’s possible a change could go into effect this week, but the NFL and NFL Players Association would have to agree to it.

Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Brown got off easy with suspension for fake vaccine card

Antonio Brown smiling

Antonio Brown should probably be feeling fortunate that he only got suspended for three games from the looks of it.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported on Saturday that the NFL initially considered a six-to-eight game suspension for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver and the two other players who violated COVID protocol. That suspension would have potentially extended into the postseason.

The former Pro Bowler Brown got into hot water for misrepresenting his vaccination status with a fake vaccine card. Bucs safety Mike Edwards and free agent receiver John Franklin III were the other two players who were suspended along with Brown.

Brown will serve his suspension during Weeks 13 through 15. A six-to-eight game ban could have carried over into the conference championship round of the playoffs at the latest. While Brown thus appears to have gotten off easy here, there could be greater implications for him moving forward.

Photo: Oct 14, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

NFL did absurd ratings numbers with Thanksgiving game

Roger Goodell

The NFL ate well on Thanksgiving this year and not just at the table.

CBS revealed Friday that the marquee Thanksgiving game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys was the “most-watched NFL regular season game on any network since 1990,” per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. CBS also said that the game brought in an estimated average viewership of 38.531 million.

The Raiders held off a second-half comeback by the Cowboys to win in a 36-33 overtime thriller. The ratings numbers were especially staggering given that the Cowboys were without star receivers CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper. Raiders tight end Darren Waller also left early due to injury.

It is a good thing that the Cowboys-Raiders matchup carried the league. After all, we did see some other pretty terrible games on the Thanksgiving slate.

Report: NFL claims Jon Gruden’s emails were only damaging ones

Jon Gruden in a Raiders hat

The NFL has reportedly found no other emails similar to those sent by Jon Gruden as part of the data collected in a workplace investigation into the Washington Football Team.

Barry Wilner of the Associated Press cited an AP source familiar with the investigation and the emails as saying that no other current league or team personnel used racist, homophobic, or misogynistic language similar to what Gruden used. The source added that the league did not find any problems “anywhere near what you saw with Jon Gruden,” though did not elaborate on whether there may have been other issues.

The league’s independent investigators collected roughly 650,000 emails as part of a sexual harassment and workplace investigation into Washington. Emails sent by Gruden, then a commentator for ESPN, were part of that collection, and the contents of them led to Gruden’s resignation this week.

Some had believed Gruden’s emails were only the tip of the iceberg, and the collection could include other notable figures making controversial or inappropriate comments. This assurance is unlikely to satisfy those who have been pressuring the NFL to release the full contents of the emails. So far, the league has maintained it will not do so.

Photo: Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden takes the field before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

NFL under pressure to release emails from Washington investigation

Roger Goodell

The NFL is facing increasing pressure to release emails collected in the investigation into the Washington Football Team after this week’s revelations about Jon Gruden.

Gruden resigned as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders late Monday after damaging emails were leaked to the New York Times. Those emails were exchanged with former Washington Football Team president Bruce Allen, and the league obtained them through its investigation into Washington’s workplace environment.

The NFL released little material from that investigation at its conclusion. Washington owner Dan Snyder was fined $10 million, but specific findings were not released due to what the league called privacy and sensitivity concerns. In light of the Gruden revelations, however, the NFLPA is now pressuring the league to release the rest of the emails it obtained through the Washington investigation.

“We have had communications with the league, and the NFLPA plans to request that the NFL release the rest of the emails,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told Mike Jones of USA Today. Smith, incidentally, was the subject of a racist trope used by Gruden in a 2011 email, which ultimately sparked further scrutiny.

The NFL said through a spokesperson that the league has no plans to release the emails, stating that confidentiality was a key element of the Washington investigation. It is not known if an official request from the NFLPA would change that.

To be clear, it isn’t known what the Washington emails contain, who would be damaged by what is in them, and whether there are damaging revelations within them or not. Rightly or wrongly, the NFL’s decision to keep much of that investigation private has left the door open to questions and speculation. That will only continue to grow in light of what came out about Gruden.

Report: NFL moves closer to adding a game in Germany

NFL logo

The NFL International Series is now one step closer to expanding.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that the league could add a game in Germany beginning as early as the 2022 regular-season. That would be along with games in both London and Mexico City.

On Tuesday, October 12, NFL brass will announce the three finalist cities.

The International Series began back in 2007 with a game between the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium. It has gone on to play 28 total regular-season games in London and three games in Mexico City, featuring 31 of the league’s 32 teams.

The only team that has yet to play an international game is the Green Bay Packers.

After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Series will continue in Week 5 with a game between the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

In Week 6, the same stadium will host a game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and aforementioned Dolphins.

NFL could have wild card playoff game on a Monday

Roger Goodell

The NFL playoffs traditionally take place over the course of four weekends, but they may be making a change this season.

The league already expanded to seven playoff teams last season compared to the previous amount of six. That meant an extra wild card game for each conference was played, giving us a total of six games on the first weekend of the playoffs. Under the previous format, only four games took place in the Wild Card Round.

This postseason, one of the wild card playoff games could take place on a Monday. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport says there would be two Saturday games, three Sunday games, and a Monday game if such a change were made.

NFL fans are already used to games being played on Monday nights, so they would likely be up for it, and the game would likely do great ratings. But there is one possible issue.

If two teams played on Monday, that would mean the winner of the game would have less time to prepare for its next game compared to its opponent. The coaches involved in the Monday playoff game probably would not be happy about that disadvantage.

NFL wants to increase COVID testing for vaccinated players to weekly

Roger Goodell

Vaccinated NFL players currently receive several benefits that do not apply to unvaccinated individuals. One such benefit is that they are only tested for COVID-19 every two weeks, compared to daily testing for unvaccinated players. However, that could change if the NFL gets its way.

On a conference call Thursday, the NFL’s general counsel said that they have proposed weekly testing of vaccinated players to the players’ union.

The increase in testing would be in relation to the increase in positive tests from the Delta variant of COVID-19.

Here is the data for positive COVID-19 cases among NFL personnel from August 1-21.

The Tennessee Titans have nine members of their franchise in COVID-19 protocol (not all for positive tests). Seven of them are players and two are coaches. The “cluster” of positive COVID tests has prompted some concerns around the league about their policies entering the season.