As the NFL makes its way through the 12th week of its regular season, it is not filled with the reassurance that was in the air in mid-September at the beginning of the football season.
As December, the last full month before the playoffs, nears, there are numerous unique circumstances going on thanks to the spread of COVID-19.
For starters, the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers was moved from Thursday, Nov. 26, to Wednesday, Dec. 2 due to the Ravens having more than 20 players who tested positive at one point, according to BaltimoreRavens.com.
Some of the Ravens players who have been put on the team’s COVID list in the last two weeks are starting quarterback Lamar Jackson, running backs Mark Ingram II and J.K. Dobbins, starting tight end Mark Andrews, starting defensive tackle Calais Campbell, and many more of the team’s key players.
Numerous Steelers players, including linebackers Avery Williamson and Alex Highsmith, defensive tackle Cameron Heyward and tight end Eric Ebron disapprove of the NFL’s decision to continuously postpone the divisional matchup for what will be at least three times in a row.
Upon hearing the news that the game would be postponed, Ebron tweeted, “The only time we look forward to some rest was after one of the biggest PRIMETIME games we no longer have. We keep getting screwed this year.”
Steelers star wide receiver and offensive rookie of the year candidate Chase Claypool also tweeted, “What a joke” in response to the game being moved.
One team that did not have enough positive COVID cases to get their game canceled was the Denver Broncos, and unfortunately for them, their entire quarterback room was not able to play in the game that proceeded. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel supposedly tested positive for the virus, according to ESPN Senior Writer Jeff Legwold.
As a result of Driskel’s positive test, Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock (the starter), Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were all listed as close contacts and were deemed ineligible for the team’s game against the New Orleans Saints last Sunday.
This cause of events resulted in one of the oddest quarterback predicaments to date; the Broncos ended up giving practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton the call to come in and serve as the team’s temporary quarterback for the week 12 matchup.
Hinton was a backup quarterback at Wake Forest College, where he completed 133 out of 251 passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions over four years of eligibility. Hinton did not attempt a single in-game pass during his senior season in 2019.
The 23-year-old suited up for NFL starting QB debut, and it wasn’t pretty.
Hinton completed one of nine pass attempts for 13 yards while throwing two interceptions. The Broncos lost the matchup 31-3, but the team had nothing but praise for their last-minute quarterback. According to the NFL’s Instagram, Hinton was working sales as recently as a month ago before his unexpected NFL start. The Broncos’ players must be tested numerous times before the team’s next game against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Another odd situation that has recently come to surface thanks to the rapid uptick in COVID cases is the change of scenery for the San Francisco 49ers in the coming weeks.
According to NFL writer Nick Shook, Santa Clara County, the county the 49ers play in, announced new COVID regulations that do not allow the 49ers to play in their home of Levi Stadium for the next couple of weeks.
The team will play their next two games against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 7, and the Washington Football Team on Dec. 13 in State Farm Stadium, the Arizona Cardinals’ home stadium.
Multiple players and even head coach Kyle Shanahan expressed a great amount of disappointment when they first heard the news.
Starting running back Raheem Mostert got emotional in a postgame interview when talking about how he hasn’t seen his family all season in order to keep them safe during the pandemic.
“It’s really tough, I miss them so much,” Mostert said. “It’s a fight every day, you’re fighting for your life.”
There are an abundance of decisions to be made by the NFL if a football season is to go through to the Super Bowl in February, and the league is doing all that it can to preserve the likelihood of that happening.
There have been murmurs of a 16-team NFL playoff bracket if some teams who have already had a bye week, like the Steelers, have to miss an additional week due to an uptick in the team’s number of positively tested players.
As the league flounders to finish what is continuing to be a season full of struggles to stay healthy, fans will have no choice but to sit and hope that the amount of leaguewide positive cases drops to a containable amount.