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COVID-19 continues to rattle NFL cages

The Philadelphia Eagles announced that head coach Doug Pederson has contracted COVID-19. On Monday morning he remained asymptomatic, and continued to work. Getty Images
The Philadelphia Eagles announced that head coach Doug Pederson has contracted COVID-19. On Monday morning he remained asymptomatic, and continued to work. Getty Images

The coronavirus hits just keep on comin’ to the NFL.

On Monday alone, one NFL head coach contracted it, another impact performer opted out of playing in 2020 because of it, and the first superstar player publicly said the coming season “shouldn’t happen” as a result of it.

First, a qualifier about the latter quotes, from Odell Beckham Jr. in a Wall Street Journal interview published Monday: They’re two-weeks stale. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported that the Cleveland Browns wide receiver is at training camp and is not expected to opt out of playing, notwithstanding these comments he made to the WSJ :

“Obviously with everything that’s going on, it doesn’t make sense why we’re trying to do this. I can understand basketball was already in the playoffs … Hooping is different than playing an 11-on-11 contact sports where there’s 80 people in a locker room.

“We’re not ready for football season. So why are we trying to push forward? It’s obviously for their money. And that bothers me because there’s always been this — and I hate saying it like that — but the owners’ (attitude is), ‘Oh, we own you guys,’ and just kind of that unfairness going on that they don’t see us as human. I just feel like the season shouldn’t happen, and I’m prepared for it to not happen. And I wouldn’t mind not having it.”

The Philadelphia Eagles, meantime, announced that head coach Doug Pederson has contracted COVID-19. On Monday morning he remained asymptomatic, and continued to work.

“I feel great, energy level is high,” Pederson said on a conference call with reporters. “I really have no symptoms whatsoever, and I am very fortunate because I do know and understand that this virus attacks people a little bit differently.

“One of the things I learned this offseason is I can still run the team virtually, and that’s what I have been able to do today, even yesterday — holding staff meetings, things of that nature, team meetings.”

Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staley will assume Pederson’s leadership roles, in-building. Pederson said he did not know when he might be permitted to return.

As for players and COVID-19, the Broncos lost their strong starting right offensive tackle, Ja’Wuan James. He has opted out. That hurts the Broncos. Once Elijah Wilkinson comes off the PUP (physically unable to perform) list he’s expected to replace James, according to Denver-based reporter Mike Klis.

Also opting out Monday were backup Chicago Bears safety and special-teams ace Jordan Lucas, and Cincinnati defensive tackle Josh Tupou. And the New York Jets made it official that linebacker C.J. Mosley has opted out.

As for quarterbacks, Browns backup Garrett Gilbert has been added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, where players are placed who either have contracted the coronavirus, or came into close contact with someone with it. Teams cannot say which.

Earlier on the weekend two starting QBs were similarly shelved: Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions (Saturday) and Gardner Minshew of the Jacksonville Jaguars (Sunday).

Over in Los Angeles, the Rams on Sunday activated Canadian-born defensive lineman Michael Hoecht from reserve/COVID-19. Born in Oakville and raised for a year in Ottawa before spending most of his youth in Ohio, the undrafted rookie sat out for only two days on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

To come off that list, a player who contracted the virus must be symptom-free for at least three days, and at least 10 days must have passed since his first symptoms appeared. Others placed on that list who only came in close contact with someone with COVID-19 require a second negative test within 24 hours of a first to be cleared, then must undergo increased monitoring and eight straight days of testing.

Through Monday according to official NFL transactions, 40 players officially had opted out, 92 had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and 18 had been activated off that list, including 10 on Monday.

About 2,700 players are at the NFL’s 32 training camps.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano pointed out Monday that 13 of the opt-outs so far were offensive linemen, and 10 were defensive linemen, including nine D-tackles.

“The guys who are breathing in each other’s faces on every play have understandable concerns,” Graziano noted on Twitter.

LAS VEGAS BANS FANS

The Las Vegas Raiders became the third NFL team to ban fans in 2020. The Raiders joined New York’s Jets and Giants, who play home games at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and announced the same thing last month.

The Raiders informed season-ticket holders of the bad news on Monday, per NFL.com.

The Raiders’ new home — Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas — is ready to open for its inaugural season. The franchise relocated to Las Vegas from Oakland this past off-season.

Nearly every other NFL team has announced it expects to have severely reduced, socially distanced seating capacities — if permitted to play in front of any fans at all this fall.

DEFLATE THIS

Tom Brady turned 43 on Monday. The NFL tweeted best wishes. Brady tweeted in reply that he “might treat myself to a new iPhone this year,” in sarcastic reference to his four-game 2017 Deflategate suspension, in part for what the NFL said was purposefully destroying potential evidence by having disposed of the iPhone he used during the 2014-15 season — something Brady said he and many celebrities do routinely.

Also, in a wiseacre Twitter video, Brady’s long-time New England big-play pass recipient and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammate, Rob Gronkowski, quipped: “What better present than throwing the football to me? You’re welcome, baby. Happy birthday. Enjoy your day. See you on the field.”

SPIELMAN SIGNS, MAKES A DEAL

The Minnesota Vikings extended GM Rick Spielman’s contract by multiple years, the club announced. He has been the club’s GM since 2012. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported it’s a three-year extension, past this season. So through 2023. Last week the club similarly extended head coach Mike Zimmer.

Within hours of being extended, Spielman traded a conditional seventh-round 2021 draft pick to the Raiders, to obtain defensive tackle P.J. Hall, a bust with the Silver and Black after being drafted in Round 2 two years ago.

EXTRA POINTS

The New York Jets released former impact WR Quincy Enunwa, who’d been sidelined for the year with a neck injury. The Jets reportedly joined the Giants without any self-drafted players prior to 2016. Wowza … Jordan Reed, one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass-catching tight ends a few years ago until concussions brought his career to a halt, has agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers, per ESPN.

JoKryk@postmedia.com

@JohnKryk

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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