Nov 22, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) reacts after a pass play to Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Browns reopen facility after no new positives

The Cleveland Browns reopened their facility Friday after reporting no new positive results for COVID-19.

The team facility was closed the past two days, and the Browns canceled Thursday’s practice after consecutive days of positive results. The team was expected to practice Friday afternoon.

Star cornerback Denzel Ward was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday along with linebacker Malcolm Smith. Tight end Harrison Bryant and safety Andrew Sendejo were put on the list earlier this week. Linebacker B.J. Goodson has been on the list since last Saturday. All tested positive, per reports.

It’s the latest COVID-19 issue to face the Browns (10-5), who can clinch their first playoff berth since 2002 with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in their regular-season finale on Sunday. Even with a loss, the Browns can make the postseason, dependent on the outcome of other games.

Last Sunday, in a 23-16 loss to the New York Jets, the Browns played without most of their wide receivers, who were forced to sit out of the game because of contact tracing. However, the group — leading receiver Jarvis Landry (789 yards) plus Rashard Higgins, rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge – was activated off the reserve list on Thursday along with linebacker Jacob Phillips.

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys player tests positive for COVID-19

The Dallas Cowboys held virtual meetings Friday after a player tested positive for COVID-19, coach Mike McCarthy said.

The player was not identified.

“All the virtual meetings are occurring with the coaches and players, and we’ll be back to, I guess, what you would call a standard Saturday schedule in the morning,” McCarthy said.

The Cowboys (6-9) are preparing to play the New York Giants (5-10) with the NFC East title and a playoff berth on the line. The Cowboys need a win and a loss by Washington to make the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) drops back in the pocket to pass during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Ravens fined $250K over COVID outbreak

The Baltimore Ravens have been hit with a $250,000 fine related to a major COVID-19 outbreak that led to 23 players being sidelined, according to published reports.

During the outbreak, the Ravens had players test positive daily for 10 straight days, including reigning MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Ravens were spared the loss of a draft pick, however. Earlier this season, the Las Vegas Raiders and New Orleans Saints each were stripped of a late-round pick in addition to $500,000 fines. The New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans were each fined $350,000.

Baltimore, which currently has no players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, reportedly had four unique strains of the virus found in its facility.

The Ravens (9-5) face the New York Giants (5-9) on Sunday afternoon.

–Field Level Media

Dec 12, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Vols pull out of Liberty Bowl due to positive tests

Tennessee was forced to pull out of next week’s Liberty Bowl after coach Jeremy Pruitt and several players tested positive for COVID-19, ESPN reported Monday.

The Volunteers (3-7) were slated to play West Virginia (5-4) on Dec. 31 in the Memphis bowl game.

The team’s tests were conducted Sunday with the positive results coming back after Tennessee had accepted the bowl invitation. Tennessee then re-tested the positives and did a whole new round of testing, per the report. The positive results and contact tracing rendered the Vols with not enough players and coaches to play the game.

The Vols finished their regular season last week against Texas A&M without assistant coaches Jay Graham and Derrick Ansley reportedly because of COVID-19 issues.

ESPN reports that the Liberty Bowl could select Army (9-2) or Mississippi State (3-7) to replace the Vols. Mississippi State is slated to play Dec. 31 in the Armed Forces Bowl, which could be a landing spot for Army if the Bulldogs head to the Liberty Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Jan 1, 2019; Pasadena, CA, USA; A general view of the Rose Bowl logo at midfield prior to the 2019 Rose Bowl between the Washington Huskies and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Rose Bowl denied fan exemption, will likely move

The state of California denied the Rose Bowl a special exemption to allow a few hundred fans to attend the game, likely spurring a venue change for the College Football Playoff semifinal, Yahoo Sports reported Saturday.

The Tournament of Roses appealed to the state to allow players’ family members to attend the game in Pasadena, but that was denied.

The game is scheduled for Jan. 1.

If the game is moved, the likely destination would be AT&T Stadium in Dallas, home of the Cowboys and where the CFP offices are located. If moved, it’s unclear if the game would still be called the Rose Bowl. The last time the Rose Bowl was played outside Pasadena was 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

A decision on venue is expected Sunday ahead of the selections of the teams.

–Field Level Media

Jul 29, 2019; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (36) talks with offensive assistant coach Stephen Brown during training camp at River Ridge Playing Fields. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Giants assistant Brown tests positive for COVID-19

One day after re-opening team facilities, the New York Giants announced that offensive assistant Stephen Brown has tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday.

“The Giants have been informed that offensive assistant Stephen Brown has tested positive for COVID-19,” a statement from the team reads. “He immediately self-isolated, and we are currently working with the league’s chief medical officer regarding close contacts. Quest Diagnostics Training Center remains open, and the team is following their normal practice and meeting schedule today.”

The news comes on the heels of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s positive test and cornerback James Bradberry being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday. Bradberry was considered a high risk close contact to someone outside the Giants’ facility who tested positive.

Brown, who was part of Garrett’s staff when he was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, must quarantine for at least 10 days.

The Giants will also be without outside linebackers coach Bret Bielema, who returned to the NCAA to take the Illinois head coaching job on Saturday.

The Giants (5-8) are scheduled to host the Cleveland Browns (9-4) on Sunday at 8:20 p.m. ET.

Garrett will be replaced by tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens, with offensive quality control coach Bobby Blick taking over with the tight ends. Defensive assistant Jody Wright will handle Bielema’s duties with the outside linebackers.

–Field Level Media

Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Goodell: NFL won’t jump ahead in COVID-19 vaccine line

With the COVID-19 vaccine starting to make its way across the United States this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday said that the league will not use its influence jump ahead in line with the Super Bowl less than two months away.

“We are not planning on any of our personnel being vaccinated in advance of the Super Bowl,” ESPN quoted Goodell as saying. “That’s obviously being done at higher levels and given priority to obviously health care workers, first responders and those that are in the riskiest state. We don’t fall into those categories, so we don’t anticipate that and we’re not planning for that.”

The timing is also significant in that Goodell spent Sunday at Tampa, Fla., taking in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minnesota Vikings game at the site of Super Bowl LV scheduled for Feb. 7, 2021.

Though Florida is among the most aggressive states with respect to reopening public spaces amid the ongoing pandemic, Raymond James Stadium has been operating at 25-percent capacity on games days since Week 6.

As of Monday, Goodell said the league still does not have a capacity in mind the Super Bowl, saying the NFL is still evaluating what that number might be.

“We’re going to try to bring in as many fans as we can safely do into Raymond James Stadium,” Goodell said. “I’m not sure there is a specific number that we are confident saying, ‘This is what it will be,’ but obviously our focus will be on keeping them safe, whoever’s in.”

Goodell also said that the league still will adapt as the season progresses. The NFL has gone to great lengths — including altering schedules, playing games as late as a Wednesday and shifting bye weeks — to keep the season on track in order to play the Super Bowl on time.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2020; Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA; Troy Trojans running back B.J. Smith (26) runs for a first down during the first half against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Floyd Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Troy-Louisiana Monroe II canceled due to COVID-19

Troy’s game with Louisiana-Monroe scheduled for Thursday night has been called for the second and final time, due to the Warhawks not having enough players available to play.

The two were originally scheduled to play on Sept. 5 but that game was postponed due to nine positive tests for the coronavirus within ULM’s program.

Troy finishes the season with a record of 5-6, and 3-4 in the Sun Belt.

“We are extremely disappointed in the news that ULM will not have enough players available to play Thursday’s game,” Troy director of athletics Brent Jones said. “I am very appreciative to ULM Athletics Director Scott McDonald and Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill for their open lines of communication in this process. My heart hurts for our student-athletes, coaches and staff who have worked tirelessly since they returned to campus in June with the intention of playing a full 12-game schedule.”

ULM finishes winless at 0-10, including an 0-7 conference mark.

“The combination of positive COVID tests, contact tracing and injuries made it impossible to safely play the season finale at Troy,” McDonald said. “Our No. 1 priority throughout this uniquely challenging season has been maintaining a safe environment for our student-athletes.

“I’m disappointed for the senior student-athletes from both schools, who won’t have the opportunity to close out their careers in the appropriate manner.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 25, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is hit by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams (98) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers put leading tackler LB Williams on COVID list

The Pittsburgh Steelers put linebacker Vince Williams on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, knocking their leading tackler out of this week’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

Per NFL protocols, Williams needs to be on the list for at least five days, even if he hasn’t tested positive for COVID-19. It’s Williams’ second stint on COVID reserve; he was deemed a high-risk close contact of tight end Vance McDonald earlier this season.

It’s another blow to the Steelers’ linebacking corps, already without Devin Bush (out for season) and Robert Spillane (knee), who’s expected to miss time. Further, outside linebacker Bud Dupree tore his ACL last week and was put on injured reserve.

Williams leads the Steelers in tackles with 63 to go with three sacks. He ranks fourth in the NFL in tackles for loss (14) and has two fumble recoveries in 12 games, all starts.

The Steelers (11-1) visit Buffalo on Sunday to take on the AFC East-leading Bills (9-3). The Steelers are coming off their first defeat of the season, a 23-17 loss to Washington (5-7).

–Field Level Media

Nov 15, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) against the Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals activate WR Fitzgerald from COVID list

The Arizona Cardinals activated Larry Fitzgerald from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday after playing the past two games without their mainstay wide receiver.

Fitzgerald, 37, tested positive for the coronavirus and was put on the list Nov. 26. He missed the Cardinals’ games against the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, both losses.

The Cardinals (6-6) hope to have him back on the field Sunday in a must-win game on the road against the resurgent New York Giants (5-7), winners of four in a row.

Fitzgerald has 43 catches for 336 yards on the season without a touchdown. He has 120 TDs in his 17-year career, all with the Cardinals.

–Field Level Media