It was only a matter of time before COVID-19 began to rear its head again in the midst of the 2020 NFL season, and it did so in widespread fashion as teams prepared for Week 12 to get underway.
As the country worked through the trials and tribulations that accompanied Thanksgiving in a coronavirus-impacted 2020, the NFL’s decision makers had their hands full as the pandemic took control over a variety of teams.
The league’s annual Thanksgiving Day slate was impacted, a team was left with zero active quarterbacks on their roster less than 24 hours before kickoff, and another franchise was told by county officials that it couldn’t practice or play games at its hometown facilities.
It’s not the first time that COVID-19 dominated the news cycle in the days leading up to an NFL Sunday, and it certainly won’t be the last as the league nears the end of the 2020 regular season.
But, it could go down as the official turning of the tide when fans, players, coaches and league representatives look back at the year and wonder where things truly went wrong.
To build a proper record for the history books if that turns out to be the case, here’s the rundown of all of COVID-19’s impacts on Week 12 of the 2020 regular season.
- Thanksgiving Day game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers gets postponed to Sunday, then gets moved again to Tuesday
In arguably the biggest COVID-19-related news of the week, the NFL saw its high-profile, primetime Thanksgiving Day matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers get postponed due to an outbreak within the Ravens facilities.
The news came as the Ravens had their eighth player test positive for the virus, forcing the league to move the game from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. ET.
Shortly thereafter, however, even bigger news broke. The team announced that star quarterback Lamar Jackson was among the players who tested positive for COVID-19, and the league announced that the game was going to be moved again from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday night.
As a result, the Ravens’ Thursday night game against the Dallas Cowboys was also pushed back, now scheduled for a Monday evening kickoff at 5 p.m. ET
The Ravens had 12 players test positive in the span of five days, and added six more to the Reserve/COVID-19 List the following day to bring its total to 18 players.
Question marks continue to linger as it relates to the game’s future, but one thing is guaranteed: the outbreak will go down as one of the biggest the sports world has seen since the pandemic first began.
- All of the Denver Broncos’ QBs get ruled out for game against New Orleans Saints
As if the league’s situation couldn’t get any worse, the Denver Broncos found out that all of the team’s quarterbacks would have to be inactive for a Week 12 game against the New Orleans Saints.
The entire depth chart, including starting QB Drew Lock, backups Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel, and practice squad QB Blake Bortles, were reportedly deemed ineligible after Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week.
Driskel was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Thanksgiving Day, and the three remaining quarterbacks were reportedly taken off the practice field on Saturday, around 24 hours before Sunday’s kickoff.
The NFL reportedly had footage of the four players interacting on the Wednesday before Driskel was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that the quarterbacks were not wearing masks.
The team was left with a multitude of options to consider as to who would start under center, including running back Royce Freeman and wide receiver Kendall Hinton. Regardless, the story is arguably the most 2020-esque scenario from an NFL perspective, and likely won’t be the last time a mini-outbreak occurs within a specific positional group.
- San Francisco 49ers’ can’t play in their home stadium for December home games
There was plenty of talk in the weeks and months leading up to the start of the 2020 NFL season about the state of football in California, with many wondering whether or not teams would even be able to host games at their own stadiums due to the pandemic.
The state’s three NFL teams managed to make it through 11 weeks of the year without an issue, with the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams able to ring in the brand new SoFI Stadium in Inglewood and the San Francisco 49ers powering through their seventh year at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
Then, a day before the 49ers would play the Rams at SoFi, the former found out that they wouldn’t be allowed to practice or play games in their home county.
Santa Clara County officials made an announcement on November 28 that said both collegiate and professional contact sports were temporarily prohibited from being played in the area until at least December 21.
“[This] will temporarily suspend activities that require direct physical contact or interaction in Santa Clara,” a county official said. “So, that means that for those teams, they will not be able to play games or have practices where they have direct contact within the county.”
With home games scheduled against the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team in that timespan, the 49ers would have to find both a new practice facility to prepare for those games, as well as a new venue to host the games if they wanted to avoid a two-week stretch on the East Coast.
While the order is specific to Santa Clara County, there is always the potential for the state’s other counties to implement similar measures, potentially leading to the inability for three NFL teams to play any games in their home states whatsoever.
- Steelers RB James Conner, Saints OL Terron Armstead among players to test positive ahead of Week 12 games
Positive COVID-19 tests aren’t anything new to the NFL, as numerous players saw their names get added to team’s Reserve/COVID-19 lists throughout the first 11 weeks of the 2020 NFL season.
But, the news doesn’t get any easier to deal with from a team perspective as the year rolls along, especially when it impacts key starters on a roster.
In addition to Jackson’s positive test and the Broncos’ exposure, a handful of other teams saw frequent contributors get ruled out for the league’s Week 12 slate.
Steelers running back James Conner tested positive for COVID-19 on the Saturday before his team’s scheduled Tuesday night game against the Ravens, and Saints offensive lineman Terron Armstead was ruled out of the team’s game against the quarterback-less Broncos due to the virus, as well.
The Indianapolis Colts had five starters added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list in the days leading up to their Week 12 game against the Tennessee Titans, including rookie running back Jonathan Taylor.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen was also expected to miss the team’s game against the Carolina Panthers after testing positive for COVID-19 in the days leading up to the Sunday afternoon game.
Positive COVID-19 test results aren’t exclusive to Week 12, and the impacts of the virus on teams across the league aren’t unique to the post-Thanksgiving slate, either.
But, the weight of the situation seems heavier than it did in any of the first 11 weeks of the 2020 regular season, and may go down as the beginning of a snowball effect that continues to be felt throughout the league’s push towards the end of the year.
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