NFL Considered Cancellations Last Week After COVID Surge, but Shuffled Schedule, Played On

As multiple NFL teams saw a rise in positive COVID tests last week, the league reportedly discussed the possibility of canceling games for the first time since the pandemic began before shifting three games to different days so they could still be played.

Saturday's game between the Cleveland Browns and Las Vegas Raiders ended up being played Monday night, with the Raiders winning, and two Sunday games, the Seattle Seahawks facing the Los Angeles Rams and the Washington Football Team playing the Philadelphia Eagles, were played Tuesday night, ending in Rams and Eagles victories.

Before the games were moved, the league opened discussions with the NFL Players Association to cancel the games because of COVID outbreaks affecting the Browns, Rams and Washington.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, NFLPA President JC Tretter, who is also the starting center for the Browns, said the union pushed back on the possibility of canceling the games as it meant the players in the affected games would not have been paid, in accordance with the league's COVID protocols that were agreed to prior to the 2020–2021 season.

"So, the NFL's position last week was that those three games were going to be canceled," Tretter said. "They weren't going to be played, and if they weren't played then nobody on either team was going to be paid. That's obviously an issue for us as a union. Over 18 percent of our player population was at risk of not getting paid last week. Our position was we need to make sure all games are played in order for our guys to get paid."

NFL, JC Tretter, COVID Cancellations, Rescheduled
Cleveland Browns center and president of the NFL Players Association JC Tretter, said the NFL discussed canceling three games last week before the union pushed back and the games were moved. Above, Tretter (64) and guard Joel Bitonio block as quarterback Baker Mayfield throws a pass against the Baltimore Ravens on November 28 in Baltimore. Nick Wass/Associated Press

But two player reps with knowledge of the discussions told the Associated Press canceling the games was never the No. 1 plan. Both reps spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the conversations.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the AP on Wednesday: "Our goal has been to play the season as scheduled in a safe, responsible way."

Tretter said the union's executive committee voted unanimously "that our position needed to be that games need to be rescheduled and not canceled and we pushed the league to that resolution."

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is focused on the games and not when they will be played.

"You don't worry about it because it's out of our control, so we can't worry about things we can't control," he said.

Last season, in the heart of the coronavirus pandemic and before vaccines were available, the NFL managed to complete its entire schedule, the playoffs and Super Bowl on time. However, that required rescheduling 15 games because of COVID-19 outbreaks on various teams.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

NFL, JC Tretter, COVID Cancellations, Rescheduled
The NFL reportedly discussed the possibility of canceling three games last week due to COVID outbreaks on several teams, before the player's union resisted the idea and the games were rescheduled. Above, the NFL logo is pictured ahead of the game between the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on December 5 in Detroit. Nic Antaya/Getty Images