NFL teams taking extra precautions as COVID-19 cases spike

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FILE - Denver Broncos strong safety Kareem Jackson (22) looks on during an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 3, 2021, in Denver. Jackson canceled his appearance at his annual Shop with a Jock charity event in which he and several teammates were supposed to host 50 youth ages 6-17 from the Boys & Girls Club of Denver and take them holiday shopping in suburban Parker, Colo.. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

Maybe Baker Mayfield needed to follow the lead of Kareem Jackson.

The Cleveland quarterback attended an event at a Boys & Girls Club, now has tested positive for COVID-19, and the youth organization had needed to take extra precautions.

Jackson, a safety with the Broncos, canceled his appearance at his annual “Shop with a Jock” charity event. He and several teammates were supposed to host 50 youth ages 6-17 from the Boys & Girls Club of Denver and take them holiday shopping in suburban Parker, Colorado.

Instead, Jackson did a Zoom session with the kids as they ate dinner — and then received $100 Walmart gift cards to buy presents.

“Just something that I felt like was the right thing to do under the circumstances in which this thing is spiking,” Jackson said Wednesday. “It wasn’t a controlled environment. I had a lot of kids that were going to be there. I’m not sure if everybody was vaccinated or in masks, so I just decided not to put myself in that situation and obviously come back into work and risk spreading the virus or anything.”

The kids still got to go shopping for toys and other presents.

Mayfield's venture on Monday with his wife, Emily, was to a Christmas event at a local Boys & Girls chapter, where they could have exposed themselves and others to the virus.

After learning of Mayfield’s positive test, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio said in a statement it informed parents and family members of the 75 children who attended the event. The club is closing its facility in Elyria, Ohio, for the rest of this week, “to do a deep cleaning and limit any further exposure.”

In addition to Mayfield, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, two other coaches, and 18 players — 11 of them starters or regulars — are on the COVID-19 list. Stefanski said he supported Mayfield’s charity work, and that he has spoken to the team about using caution while in public places as the virus rages.

But this is the second straight year the Browns have been hit by an outbreak of the coronavirus. Stefanski even missed a playoff game at Pittsburgh in January.

An NFL spokesman told the AP there has been no discussion of moving Saturday’s game.

“We have a game Saturday at 4:30 p.m., unless somebody tells me otherwise,” Stefanski said of facing Las Vegas. “We just really have to focus on what we need to do to prepare, and that is our full expectation is to get out there with our guys Saturday and go find a way.”

Elsewhere in the NFL:

— The Jets are holding only remote meetings all week before heading to Miami.

“I lived it last year (while with San Francisco) with one of our Thursday night games where basically half the team was out,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. "It’s not an ideal situation, but it adds to the amount of caution that we all need to take with hygiene, washing our hands, being masked up and all that stuff. I think you’re seeing a lot of the teams starting to go virtual here, and I bet by the end of next week most of them will be.”

— Washington placed seven new players on its growing COVID-19 list, including backup quarterback Kyle Allen, defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and receiver Cam Sims. The other additions: TE Sammis Reyes, OL Cornelius Lucas, S Darrick Forrest, LB Milo Eifler. They increase the team’s total COVID-19-affected group to 18 players, including starting cornerback Kendall Fuller and defensive tackle Jon Allen.

— In addition to wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who was diagnosed on Monday, the Giants had two positives Wednesday with WR John Ross and LB Oshane Ximines.

Giants coach Joe Judge said the team has changed some protocols. Players are wearing masks in the team facility and are spaced out more in meetings.

“We’ll make sure that we’re safe throughout the remainder of the day," Judge said. "Anyone who’s been involved in any kind of a close contact or test at this point has either been removed or separated from the team, and they’re in virtual meetings. We’ll talk as a staff and I’ll talk with the captains about the remainder of the week of handling meetings partially virtual and then getting the guys over here to practice. We’ve done that in the past and it has worked smoothly.”

—The Eagles returned to practice from a bye and placed two players on the COVID-19 list: wide receiver Quez Watkins and practice squad running back Jason Huntley.

All players are wearing masks even though vaccinated players aren't required to do so per the protocols.

“Coach (Nick Sirianni) is just trying to get ahead of it right now, we’re wearing masks - we’re not obligated to, but as a team we all kind of decided to do that, to be on the safe side, try to get ahead of it,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “It’s an important time. Games won in December are the most important ones of the year.”

The Eagles host Washington on Sunday in a matchup with playoff implications.

“Right now we don’t have an outbreak, but we’re trying to be cautious to prevent something like what’s going on in Washington or Cleveland or some of these other places,” Eagles center Jason Kelce said.

—The Chicago Bears added rookie right tackle Larry Borom to the COVID-19 list, giving them six players on it. The Bears could be without both starting tackles when they host the Vikings on Monday night. Left tackle Jason Peters left last week’s loss at Green Bay with an ankle injury and was replaced by rookie Teven Jenkins.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, cornerback Artie Burns, offensive tackle Elijah Wilkinson, defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. and practice squad linebacker Sam Kamara are on the COVID-19 list.


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