If ever you contemplated not liking Aaron Donald — please use your imaginations — the Rams’ 50-foot-tall defensive tackle offered up a good reason this week in suburban Los Angeles, where he and his teammates have been occasionally practicing for the two-day-postponed, SoFi Stadium game with Seahawks at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“It was a mini-bye week,” Donald said on a video conference, via the Los Angeles Times. “You got to stay off your feet, rest up a little bit, get some of the aches and pains out of your body a little bit more . . . I think it kind of helped us.”
Well, good for you, big fella. We read about your sore knee, so perhaps you could text your snookums, Commissioner Roger Goodell, for another week’s postponement to make sure you’re 100 percent. Maybe take your therapy in Puerto Vallarta. You and your franchise have done such a good job with your COVID-19 protocols, you deserve to be rewarded.
Pete Carroll wants to know if you take your margaritas with salt.
(Checks notes) I read that wrong. He said broken glass, not salt.
Ah, we kid.
But if the Seahawks don’t win, there’s likely to be some residual red-ass between the franchises and fans. The Seahawks appeared vigilant and the Rams reckless in causing the game delay, and subsequently forcing a short week for the Dec. 26 games.
Then again, given the incredible spread of the omicron variant among the vaccinated, the episode may end up a mere footnote, a single regular-season game overshadowed by a covid-induced absence of NFL playoffs.
Not saying that’s in the forecast, exactly. And it’s possible to be grateful that the vast majority of positive cases have been reported to be asymptomatic.
But the World Health Organization said in a report Tuesday that omicron cases are doubling every 1.5 to 3 days. That’s exponentially crazy. Well beyond sports, the nation and the world may be in for a virus tsunami, not just another wave.
We’re just at the beginning.
A report Monday from the CDC said the variant had spread to 48 of the 50 states. At a media briefing Friday in Seattle, scientists and public health officials said that a simple 10-day projection of the growth rate leads to an expectation of 2,100 daily omicron cases in King County by Wednesday, three times the number seen at the previous high point in the pandemic.
In the NFL on Monday alone, 51 players were put on the covid-reserve list, most in the pandemic’s two-year run of destruction.
Some of the notables were Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, Los Angeles Chargers LB Joey Bosa, Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff, Washington Football Team’s OG Brandon Scherff, Philadelphia Eagles OT Andre Dillard, New England Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne and Baltimore Ravens LB Justin Houston.
New to the list Monday was Seahawks DT Bryan Mone, who followed teammates RT Brandon Shell and CB D.J. Reed Sunday. They were preceded Thursday by WR Tyler Lockett and RB Alex Collins, bringing Seattle’s total to nine, including the practice squad members.
In LA, the Rams were happy with the returns of CB Jalen Ramsey, RB Darrell Henderson and WR Odell Beckham, among 11 players back from a league-high 29 temporarily dismissed. Both teams will have until 1 p.m. Tuesday to adjust rosters with practice squad players.
Whoever does or doesn’t show up to play in Seahawks and Rams uniforms may be little noted nor long remembered, if the roster disruptions continue into the start of the playoffs in mid-January. That’s the NFL showcase. Without those stars listed above, and others yet to be infected, how much credibility would those games have?
That prompts the bigger societal question: If the NFL, with all its sophisticated technology, limitless resources, intense regimens, stringent protocols and healthy bodies, can’t maintain competitive integrity among its vaccinated employees for its showcase, what do the rest of us do in our lesser pursuits?
The league will have to decide what level of roster losses constitute a competitive disadvantage, as they did with three postponements over the weekend. That leads to decisions on whether to keep moving the goalposts regarding testing standards, as well the dates of games, in order to keep gym teachers and and commercial fishermen off the rosters.
Based on the early data so far with omicron, a sports league, even one that’s nearly 100 percent vaccinated, is forced to make some hard choices. The NHL is testimony to that, Monday night becoming the first North American to hit pause in response to the rapid spread. Approaching mid-season, more than 15 percent of the league’s players were in virus protocols.
The league said it would start its annual holiday break early, on Wednesday, bringing the total of postponed games to 49. The count includes two Seattle Kraken home games, Sunday against Toronto and Tuesday against Arizona. The Kraken have shut its facilities until after Sunday.
According to an ESPN story, the NHL views all of the postponements as material damage to the schedule, which is sufficient cause for the league to exercise its opt-out clause for player participation in the Beijing Olympics, which begin in February. The league is expected to make an Olympics announcement sometime this week.
Even after the holiday break, the NHL seems likely to postpone more games due to fast spreading omicron, with increasingly slim chances to make all of them up. Bitter blows all around. Will the NFL follow suit, or go down the stretch with practice-squad heroes?
One of the NFL’s three “breakout” teams, the Browns, lost Monday night to the Raiders, 16-14, on a walk-off field goal, an outcome Browns fans undoubtedly believe would have been reversed had covid-positive QB Baker Mayfield been available. The two extra days the NFL granted Mayfield and the Browns were no provable help. Yet had the Raiders missed the game-winning field goal, would that have justified the postponement?
Tuesday will provide the next test-case turn for the Rams, Seahawks and their fans to wrap the outcome in covid woulda-shoulda-coulda terms of who didn’t play, instead of who did play. The thinking is as understandable as it is unavoidable and unhelpful.
Aside from a temporary shutdown — a pause to let the virus storm pass — any other choice for the NFL colossus besides muddling along, isn’t clear. For the rest of us, that’s a worse outcome than a shortened sports season.