Rost: What Rams’ COVID outbreak could mean for the Seahawks

Dec 15, 2021, 9:19 AM
Seahawks WR DK Metcalf...
Wide receiver DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks catches a pass in front of cornerback Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams in the first half at Lumen Field. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It’s an NFC West battle for the Seahawks this weekend in Los Angeles as Seattle (5-8) prepares to take on the Rams (9-4), but several positive COVID tests on the Rams’ squad means L.A. could be short a few starters.

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Here’s what you need to know about those tests, the COVID protocol, and what whether or not the game could be forfeited:

Why does the recent spate of positive COVID tests matter?

Well, a COVID outbreak is always something to monitor because the health of players, coaches and the employees around them is always a priority, as is stopping community spread. If the number of positive tests is drastically above the norm, then the league will likely want to investigate the factors that led to a spike (like a more contagious variant, or players spending increasing time in social settings around the holidays).

When it comes to judging “the norm,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert offered a good example:

So yes, the number of cases this week is above average.

Outside of that, it matters because a player’s vaccination status impacts how quickly he can return following a positive test – and with Week 15 just a few days away, that means some players may be in danger of missing time.

Have any Seahawks tested positive?

As of Monday afternoon, no Seahawks players have been placed on the reserve/COVID list. Asked how Seattle has managed to avoid large-scale outbreaks, ESPN’s Brady Henderson said one reason is that the Seahawks have added a second testing day per week.

“It certainly helps that they have had all but two players who are vaccinated,” Henderson said, “(but) it also helps that they test an extra day per week. The unvaccinated players have to test every day, but for the players who are vaccinated, the NFL only requires them to test one day per week. The Seahawks actually go above and beyond and do two days a week, which might’ve saved them from a huge outbreak after that Rams game. If you remember, Gerald Everett tested positive and then basically had they not tested a second time – he tested negative and then he contracted COVID and tested positive when they re-tested a second time that week – and had they not re-tested again, he would’ve been in that building, he would’ve been on the flight to San Francisco, and could’ve exposed the entire team to that. So, being vaccinated helps, and testing more than the league requires has helped avoid a serious issue, at least to this point.”

Which Rams players have tested positive?

As of Tuesday afternoon, 13 Rams players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. It’s important to note here that being placed on the reserve/COVID list does not mean a player has tested positive; players are placed on this list if they have either tested positive or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry has a list of players who have been placed on the list:

The list now includes starting cornerback Jalen Ramsey, starting running back Darrell Henderson, and starting right tackle Rob Havenstein.

Will any players miss time Sunday?

It depends. A vaccinated player who tests positive and is asymptomatic can return to play after two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart.

An unvaccinated player must stay undergo a 10-day isolation period and can return afterwards if he is asymptomatic, which means any unvaccinated player around the league who tested positive will miss this weekend’s games.

In a press conference conducted from home – the Rams have shut down their facility until at least Thursday to avoid further spread — head coach Sean McVay indicated that the Rams players who were placed on the list are vaccinated.

“The scary thing about all of this to me is every single person is vaccinated that we’re talking about,” McVay said. “That’s the thing that’s the most concerning about all of this is everybody’s done exactly what they could. I trust that these guys are taking the right precautionary measures. And whether its this new variant or whatever it is, now you‘re adding a lot of layers to this situation that we thought we were past, and that’s the thing that I thing is the most mind-numbing about it all to me.”

One Rams player who was initially placed on the list – starting tight end Tyler Higbee – has since been removed due to a false positive and is expected to play Sunday.

Is there a chance the Seahawks-Rams game could be canceled?

It’s very unlikely, but in the event that it is, the league has a new policy this year for games that are canceled. Unsurprisingly, that policy also varies depending on whether or not players are vaccinated.

Back in July the NFL sent out a memo telling clubs that if a game was canceled due to a COVD outbreak among unvaccinated players, the team with the outbreak would be charged with a loss in a forfeit. (With a new game added to the schedule beginning this year, the league was likely trying to avoid movement with the schedule and incentivize players to get vaccinated.)

If the outbreak is among vaccinated players – and it would appear this is the case with the Rams – the NFL has said it will “attempt to minimize the competitive and economic burden on both teams,” meaning the league would attempt to reschedule the game, assuming it doesn’t add a 19th week to the season.

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