After the Baltimore Ravens had at least 10 positive Covid-19 tests, the NFL postponed the team’s primetime matchup against the unbeaten Pittsburgh Steelers to Sunday.
NBC had been scheduled to air the game and had been airing heavy promotions of its three notable Thanksgiving events, with the game preceded by the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the National Dog Show. It wasn’t immediately clear which network will broadcast the game, or even what time it will be played. A decision on both matters is expected later today.
“The decision was made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel, and in consultation with medical experts,” the NFL said in a statement.
With the primetime matchup of two longtime rivals wiped out, the Thanksgiving football tradition will come down to a less-than-scintillating doubleheader, at least on paper. The first game will see the Detroit Lions face the Houston Texans on CBS, and the second will feature the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team on Fox. All four teams have sub-.500 records, though the latter game’s outcome will at least have some impact on the playoff picture because all teams have dismal records in the NFC East, Dallas and Washington’s division.
The NFL has managed to play the most conventional season of any of the major U.S. professional sports leagues despite Covid-19, though infection rates have risen significantly since the season began in early September. All but a handful of teams have played in front of no fans. Without the kind of “bubble” setups deployed by the NBA and NHL, teams have had more than 200 positive tests of players, coaches and other personnel. The scale of the sport, with large rosters and the league’s traditional “next man up” philosophy due to frequent injuries, the plan has been to play straight through to Super Bowl LV on February 7.
Steeler players Chase Claypool and JuJu Smith-Schuster expressed their irritation on Twitter. “What a joke,” Claypool tweeted succinctly. “First the NFL takes away our bye week because another team can’t get their Covid situation together,” Smith-Schuster wrote, “now they take away our Thanksgiving primetime game for the same reason. Smh.”
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