Roger Goodell says Omicron variant prompts 'flexible response' in memo to NFL teams

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 teams on Friday explaining the NFL's shift in protocol and decision-making when it comes to scheduling games amid a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

The NFL on Friday rescheduled three Week 15 games -- Raiders-Browns to Monday; Washington-Eagles and Seahawks-Rams to Tuesday -- marking the first change to the 2021 regular-season schedule due to the pandemic.

"From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, our focus has been to play our games in a safe and responsible way, consistent with the best available medical and public health advice, based on protocols jointly developed and implemented with the NFL Players Association," Goodell wrote in a memo obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. "A key element of our success to date has been our commitment to working with our union and our respective medical experts to make needed adjustments in response to changing conditions.

"The emergence of the Omicron variant is precisely the kind of change that warrants a flexible response. Based on medical advice, we have instituted additional protocols as well as revised testing protocols for reinstating players and staff who have tested positive. We have also considered whether certain games should be rescheduled in light of current conditions."

Decisions to reschedule or cancel games remaining on the schedule will be made "in accordance with the principles" outlined by Goodell in a memo sent in July. Goodell pledged the league "will make every effort, consistent with underlying health and safety principles, to play or full schedule within the current 18 weeks" while emphasizing the responsibility falls on each franchise to "have its team ready to play at the scheduled time and place." Clubs will not have a "right to postpone a game, and games will not be postponed or rescheduled because of roster issues affecting a particular position group or particular number of players."

Goodell stated in the Friday memo that the decisions to postpone the three games were made "based on medical advice."

The league will continue to "make every effort to minimize the competitive and economic burden on the participating teams, as well as our fans and business partners," and existing seeding and tie-breaking procedures approved in 2020 will be used if necessary for the 2021 season, according to the memo.

The NFL expects the rescheduled games will be played at the new times and will not be moved to a later date or time, Goodell wrote.

In what has proven to be an evolving situation regarding COVID-19, Goodell stated the NFL will remain versatile and able to adjust as needed.

"We are continuing to work with the NFLPA and our respective medical experts to evaluate and make appropriate modifications to our protocols to ensure that we can complete what has been an exciting and competitive season," Goodell wrote. "We will continue to communicate any developments relating to the protocols or other matters to you as early as possible."

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