I wanted to wait awhile this week before writing a Seahawks-Rams column. In an NFL world suddenly living minute by covid minute, any news of the moment is quickly rendered stale as last year’s Christmas fruitcake (which, by the way tastes the same as it did a year ago, undamaged by time).
The main events of Thursday, in order:
*Seahawks teammates WR Tyler Lockett and RB Alex Collins, both vaccinated, test positive for COVID-19
*An abrupt change in protocols by the NFL office in New York allows a quicker return for players on the covid reserve list (120 identified so far this week)
*Los Angeles Rams add nine more players to their list for a league-high 25, taking the lead from the Washington Football Team’s 21
I confess to trepidation at setting the publication time for 6 a.m. Friday. The sports world may have changed three times since these words were typed (FYI, the NBA, with far fewer players, has 52 so far in its December protocols; the NHL has well more than 100).
Amid the tumult, one thing is certain:
The NFL, which has no more bye weeks, is in no mood to cancel or forfeit games. In the event of player shortages Sunday, each team has a 16-member practice squad, so every bartender, longshoreman or truck driver in the group is eligible to have a dream come true.
Remember last season, when covid one week took away all three quarterbacks on the Broncos roster? The Broncos had to start a wide receiver at quarterback, and the NFL didn’t care. The sanctity of the schedule prevailed. A game unplayed is TV revenue unearned.
Believing player safety is at risk, as well as the game’s competitive integrity, the NFL players’ union wants postponements considered. A postponement is possible — some happened in the fan-free 2020 season — but likely only for a day. If the Rams’ outbreak continues, the option may arise Friday ahead of the Seahawks game Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
The Rams closed their practice facility this week and didn’t even get a walk-through, much less a practice.
One reason a day’s postponement could salvage the contest is because the new protocols offer a way for fully vaccinated players to “test out” of COVID-19 protocols and return from quarantine faster. According to a story on NFL.com, an individual’s return is possible as soon as the day after an initial positive test, because two tests now can be taken on the same day.
Since all the Rams are vaccinated, and as with most positive cases around sports, symptoms are proving to be few to none, it’s likely that numerous negative tests will be produced by the deadline of 24 hours before the game.
That holds true for the Seahawks, who were proud of their near-spotless record until Lockett and Collins were diagnosed Thursday. Previously, TE Gerald Everett missed two games in October.
QB Russell Wilson did offer a small peek behind the curtain, saying he and Lockett, who the past Sunday became the first Seahawk since Hall of Famer Steve Largent to have three consecutive seasons of 1,000 receiving yards, talked by phone.
“He’s feeling pretty good,” he said. “I’m hoping that there is potential (to play Sunday), but who knows. We will see.
“Anytime you don’t have Tyler in there, it’s always tough . . . Even when you are as ultra-careful as a guy like Tyler, something can happen.”
The Seahawks are believed to be only NFL team that tests players twice a week instead of once. That’s at the insistence of coach Pete Carroll, who, before Thursday’s results were known, was pleased with the results of the extra effort, but acknowledged the toll of the vigilance.
“People get fatigued from it. We just can’t. We can’t let that happen,” Carroll said Wednesday. “Everyone gets worn down by the reminders . . . it’s stressful when you have to be continually reminded of something that you wouldn’t normally do. It wears on you. We try to avoid it. We look for ways to get out of it. We hear conversations about it all the time. That’s why the national clamor is about being diligent.
“I like to say I do a great job of that. I’ve got to do better. We are in the last month of the season, and we’ve got a shot to make it through. I don’t know what’s going to happen after today.”
Carroll was prophetic. Within 24 hours, his best wasn’t enough to work around a pandemic that remains relentless and elusive.
On top of the virus catching up to Lockett, injuries also complicated Carroll’s week, depleting the wide receiver group. DK Metcalf (foot, back) hasn’t practiced this week, nor have Freddie Swain (ankle) and Dee Eskridge (foot). The only healthy pass catcher on the 53-man roster who practiced was Penny Hart.
Some of the positive tests and the injuries may resolve before Sunday. But for the next couple of days, what isn’t happening is overshadowing the usual talk of what football deeds might happen when the Rams (9-4) seek a season sweep of the Seahawks (5-8) to end Seattle’s already minuscule shot at the playoffs.
FS Quandre Diggs had a handle on managing the task.
“We’re comfortable with the uncomfortable,” he said. “Right now, we’re in an uncomfortable situation, so we’ve got to make it do.”
If players and fans don’t like the current level of discomfort, just wait. More is likely on the way.