The NFL has to postpone the Raiders and Browns contest on Saturday.
The NFL is to blame for this mess the Cleveland Browns find themselves in. As NFLPA President and Browns starting center, J.C. Tretter points out, the NFL changed the policy of how frequently players are to be tested. This has caused a league-wide outbreak that is affecting just about every team but none maybe more so than the Browns.
As it stands right now, the Browns are out 13 players alone due to COVID; QB Baker Mayfield, RG Wyatt Teller, LT Jedrick Wills Jr., WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper, TE David Njoku, WR/KR JoJo Natson, DE Takk McKinley, LB Anthony Walker, P Jamie Gillan, John Johnson III, CB Troy Hill (also injured), DT Malik McDowell.
Now some of those players, like Njoku, Walker, and Gillan should be back by Saturday, as they tested positive last week. Some of the players who tested positive this week may be eligible to return, as a player needs two consecutive negative tests to be eligible to return.
The COVID cases are only hampering gan already massive issue the Browns are dealing with; injuries. As of right now, the Browns are out at least five players at the moment due to injuries; RT Jack Conklin, RB Kareem Hunt, TE Harrison Bryant, WR Anthony Schwartz, CB Greg Newsome II.
While the injuries can’t be helped, the 13 players, one coach (Kevin Stefanski), and however many more test positive before Saturday is 100% on the NFL for their handling of the season.
The NFL is at fault and needs to make things right
The Browns offense is already in shambles before COVID hit. Now you’re asking a team to play a game with three of five starting offensive linemen, their starting quarterback, their four best pass-catching options, and their second running back are all out?
Let’s forget about competitive fairness for a moment and just point out the obvious; this game is going to suck to watch. This team will be made up of free agents, practice squad guys, and backups. There will be no chemistry the number of mistakes and penalties will be a season-high. If you’re the NFL, how do you sell that to advertisers?
Let’s ignore the concerns that I have about starting Case Keenum and let’s just look at what he has around him. An offensive line with two regular starters, one regular receiver, potentially one backup (Rashard Higgins), probably two practice squad tight ends, and a special teams coach in Mike Priefer, calling plays.
Even if Keenum was universally beloved for his skills, even this scenario would be too much for him or even Mayfield to handle, for that matter. This is a disaster waiting to happen on the field. It’d be different if it were injuries, as those can’t be helped and teams need to prepare for those issues to arise, but not something that’s due to the failures of the NFL to protect their players.
If the game is played, the Browns could still win. They have the league’s fourth-best defense and they’re pretty deep at most positions affected. So they can still get lucky. It will still be an awful game to watch but they could get lucky.
So don’t bother. Delay the game a few days. Do a double-header on Monday or delay it Tuesday like was done before. This game can’t be played with the Browns missing over 35% of its team. Most of whom should be eligible to play had the NFL not cut corners to save a few bucks.
(*Update*: Njoku has been cleared for Saturday’s game)