The Morning Column: December 17, 2021
During the pandemic, we learned there are many things you can do virtually but practicing and preparing for an NFL game isn’t and shouldn’t be one of them.
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1. The Los Angeles Rams have at least 25 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list as of Friday morning, a little over 48 hours before they are scheduled to play the Seattle Seahawks at SoFi Stadium.
The list, which has grown every day since the Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night, includes Jalen Ramsey, Odell Beckham Jr. and now Von Miller, who was added to the list Thursday. The team’s training facility has been closed since Tuesday and the Rams have conducted meetings virtually this week. During the pandemic, we learned there are many things you can do virtually but practicing and preparing for an NFL game isn’t and shouldn’t be one of them.
The NFL is at a crossroads when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. The league needs to either reschedule Sunday’s Rams-Seahawks game due to the spread of the virus or stop testing asymptomatic, vaccinated individuals, pretend like the pandemic is over and continue with business as usual, which is probably what they want to do.
2. It may sound crazy to pretend like the pandemic is over given the spread of the virus and the high number of positive cases around the NFL (and every sports league) but that’s essentially what the NFL would be doing by insisting Sunday’s game be played as scheduled despite everything that has happened this week.
The issue is COVID-19 wouldn’t be the biggest concern if Sunday’s game kicks off in about 48 hours but injury and attrition given the fact that the depleted Rams haven’t been able to enter their facility this week. Aside from being able to prepare for a big divisional game, injured Rams players such as Aaron Donald and Brian Allen have been unable to see team trainers and get treatment. Again, there’s a lot of things you can do over Zoom these days, but rehabbing a knee injury isn’t one of them.
3. The Lakers have been dealing with COVID-19 as well after Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Ticket, Dwight Howard and Malik Monk entered health and safety protocols during the team’s three-game road trip. Monk tested out and will be available for Friday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves but it’s not hard to see how quickly and easily the virus can spread throughout a team with asymptomatic players when you watch Westbrook, Bradley and the rest of the Lakers celebrating Austin Reaves’ game-winning shot on Wednesday night before Westbrook and Bradley tested positive and were unable to travel with the team to Minneapolis.
4. UCLA basketball has effectively hit the pause button on games and activities for a week after canceling its game against Alabama State on Wednesday. UCLA coach Mick Cronin entered protocols before the game and UCLA’s highly anticipated match-up against North Carolina in Las Vegas on Saturday was cancelled. UCLA’s upcoming games against Cal Poly on Dec. 22 and Arizona on Dec. 30 are also in jeopardy now.
I know this feels like we’re back in 2020 all over again but sports will not be shut down for 4-5 months like they were last year and we won’t be playing games in a bubble again. This isn’t going to last forever. Scientists predicted another variant and wave around the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year) and are optimistic we'll be past this in March. (The 1918 influenza pandemic lasted two years, by the way.) This is about getting past the next few months and there’s even a chance leagues could decide by next month that they’re retiring strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols and reverting to testing only symptomatic individuals.
5. The Chargers lost to the Kansas Chiefs, 34-28 in overtime, in a classic Thursday Night Football game at SoFi Stadium. Immediately after the game, everyone wanted to get on Brandon Staley’s aggressive play calling, which was one of the reasons he was the darling of the NFL when the Chargers started the season 4-1.
You can get on Staley for routinely going for it on fourth down on his side of the field but I’m never going to criticize him (or any coach) for going for a touchdown with the ball inside the five-yard (three times) or inside the one-yard line (on two of those three trips). The Chiefs just dropped 48 points on the Raiders four days earlier and Patrick Mahomes finished Thursday by leading the Chiefs on three 75-yard touchdown drives. You’re not going to beat the Chiefs by kicking field goals inside the five-yard line.
I can understand criticizing Staley for going for it on fourth down at the Chiefs’ 28-yard line instead of trying a 45-yard field goal but remember we’re talking about the Chargers, a team that has missed SEVEN extra points this season. I can understand him having more confidence in Justin Herbert picking up a first down there.
6. A ticket from Michael Jordan’s NBA debut sold for $264,000 on Thursday, which is the most ever paid for a collectable sports ticket. The face value of the ticket from Oct. 26. 1984 was $6.50 and looks like every ticket I bought from Ticketmaster back in the 1980s and 1990s. The sale made me nostalgic about actual physical tickets with everything now being entirely mobile. It’s hard to imagine a screen grab of a game ticket in my iPhone wallet fetching much money 40 years from now.
7. Here are some odds if you’re thinking about placing a wager today brought to you by Circa Sports.
8. Here’s the local pro sports schedule today brought to you by Yaamava’.
7 p.m. Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves – Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
7 p.m. Arizona Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks – Hulu
9. Here are the “get in” prices for tickets locally on TickPick if you’re thinking about going to a pro sports game.
Arizona Coyotes at Anaheim Ducks – $27
10. On Thursday’s The Arash Markazi Show, we talked about Austin Reaves hitting the biggest shot of his career to save the Lakers and perhaps turn around their season.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you on Monday.