The NFL rescheduled several games last season due to the ongoing pandemic. For this season, the league implemented several rules to help teams navigate the pandemic, including expanding the practice squad roster. The NFL made it clear before the start of the season that games would not be rescheduled due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Furthermore, the league stated that teams could be forced to forfeit games if there was a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players.
NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell all but confirmed that this game would not be moved, saying that there has been no discussion regarding rescheduling.
"We feel confident with continuing changes and adaptions to our protocols we can do that," said Goodell on Wednesday.
There were 15 rescheduled games in 2020 due to the pandemic. Pittsburgh's home game against Baltimore was rescheduled three times before the two teams played on a Wednesday night in Week 12. And while the league's schedule was adjusted several times, the NFL was able to complete its 2020 schedule with a single cancellation.
The pandemic has hit the NFL hard over the past week, with more than 70 players being placed on their team's respective reserve/COVID-19 list over the past three days. No team has been hit harder by the recent outbreak than the Browns, who currently have over a dozen players on their COIVD-19 list. Browns coach Kevin Stefanski also tested positive for the virus this week. Browns players on the COVID-19 list include Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Wyatt Teller, Jedrick Wills, David Njoku, Austin Hooper, Takkarist McKinley and John Johnson III.
Cleveland (7-6) is currently in a tight race in the AFC North division between Baltimore (8-5), Cincinnati (7-6) and Pittsburgh (6-6-1). The Browns are currently the eighth seed in the AFC playoffs, a season after winning the franchise's first playoff game since 1994. Despite having Stefanski and several key players out with COVID-19, the Browns defeated the Steelers in the wild-card round. Stefanski believes that his team can overcome similar obstacles now.
"We have seen through last season and I have seen it this year, guys step up," Stefanski said earlier this week. "That is what the NFL is about. You are without guys due to injury or otherwise, and guys step up. That is why we have a bunch of players on this team that we trust."