NFL shifts deadlines, COVID testing. Can Tyler Lockett, Alex Collins return to play in LA?

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Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) celebrates with teammates after catching a pall for a two-point conversion against the Houston Texans during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Justin Rex )
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Tyler Lockett’s and Alex Collins’ opportunities to test back into the Seahawks’ plans for their delayed Rams game keep increasing.

The league is giving the Seahawks and Rams until 1 p.m. Pacific Time Tuesday — three hours before their rescheduled kickoff in Inglewood, California — to make transactions for the game. The deadline for game transactions is typically the day before kickoff, which in this case would have been Monday.

Lockett, Seattle’s top wide receiver, and Collins, its leading rusher this season, tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday. That day, they went on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

The changes the league announced Saturday give Lockett and Collins chances on Saturday, Sunday and Monday and perhaps even Tuesday morning, game day, to test negative twice and return to the team to play against Los Angeles.

Plus, those two tests now can be the rapid-result, Mesa tests, and those tests can be on the same day. That’s per a change the NFL made for vaccinated players to test back into play following a positive test.

Previously, the two negative results had to be 24 hours apart, and one of them had to a PCR test that takes longer to yield results.

Coach Pete Carroll said Friday Lockett and Collins “both feel way better than they did initially” Thursday. But as of Friday neither had yet tested negative.

“Tyler had a tough day (Thursday), but he’s OK now,” Carroll said Friday.

“We are just waiting it out, those guys are going to try and test back in, so we will see what happens.”

The NFL and its players’ association also announced Saturday changes to the COVID-19 testing protocol for the remainder of this season, in response to the new Omicron variant that is sweeping the globe as well as the sports world. Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memorandum addressed to team chief executives, presidents, general managers and coaches:

  • unvaccinated players will continued to be tested daily

  • new “strategic and targeted, spot testing” — random testing — will happen for vaccinated players who are asymptomatic, instead of the previous NFL standard of one test per week for the vaccinated

  • any player or staff reporting symptoms will be tested promptly

  • players and families will have access to supplemental and voluntary testing on a daily basis

  • players will be issued home tests “to allow them to identify and self-report a possible infection before entering the facility”

The change to random, “spot” testing for asymptomatic, vaccinated players is in response to most of the 150-plus players who tested positive across the league this week while being asymptomatic and vaccinated.

A Seahawks spokesman told The News Tribune it was unclear as of Saturday afternoon if the team will continue testing all its players twice each week. Carroll said he believes Seattle is the NFL’s only team that’s been testing twice per week throughout this season.

Without regular testing anymore, the pillar of the NFL’s new measures are players reporting symptoms as soon as they have them. That likely puts those players self-reporting symptoms out of that week’s game, but it in theory protects a team from a larger outbreak of subsequent positive cases.

Carroll credited Lockett and Collins for self-reporting Thursday, a day after each of them tested negative among the Seahawks’ second of two COVID tests this week.

Lockett and Collins self-reporting symptoms Thursday had, as of Saturday morning, spared the Seahawks from more positive cases than their two.

“It was the next day. We thought we had made it over a big proving moment (with all Seahawks negative through Wednesday),” Carroll said. “But symptoms showed up.

“And guys did the right thing. You get symptoms, we are supposed to check it out and test, just in case. It proved that those guys tested positive after the symptoms that they have had.”

Gerald Everett says many Seahawks “who felt kinda weird, felt they should double-check” re-tested for COVID-19 Thursday in the wake of Lockett and Collins testing positive. That was the third test since the Seahawks returned from playing last weekend at Houston.

Everett said he re-tested, even though he says he’s still in a 90-day grace period from having had COVID. Until Lockett and Collins this week, Everett had been the only Seahawks player to test positive for COVID in the two years of the pandemic.

Carroll said Friday an unnamed assistant coach and “a couple” team staff members also tested positive this week.

“I worry about those guys, Tyler and the receivers, everybody else who’s on the staff that came back with the results,” Everett said. “It’s definitely something tough to deal with on the body and on the mental. We’re going to stay closely connected to those guys.”

The Rams (9-4) entered the weekend with 25 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That is why the NFL and players’ union postponed the Seattle-L.A. game to Tuesday.

The league also moved the Las Vegas at Cleveland game that had been scheduled for Saturday to Monday, after the Browns had more than 20 positive COVID cases. Washington at Philadelphia moved from Sunday to Tuesday following an outbreak on Washington’s team.

Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., lead running back Darrell Henderson and four others in L.A. tested off the list Saturday. The 19 other Rams on the COVID list include All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They now get the same opportunity as Lockett and Collins. They get until Tuesday, 4 p.m., to test back in to being able to play in the rescheduled game the Seahawks (5-8) must win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.