CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns are pulling no punches.
In the last week, the team's roster has been decimated by positive coronavirus tests, with more than a dozen players currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list. On Wednesday, quarterback Baker Mayfield contracted the virus despite being fully vaccinated, and now there are reports his backup Case Keenum has been sidelined as well.
All this with the Browns scheduled to play the Las Vegas Raiders this Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium, a crucial game for both teams' playoff hopes. Up to this point, the NFL has not mandated vaccinated players get tested daily, but Mayfield and others believe that is playing a role in the current situation with more elusive variants like delta and omicron now spreading.
"Make up your damn mind on protocols," Mayfield angrily tweeted at the NFL after news of Keenum's positive test was made public. "Showing up and making only 3 teams test?!? All so you can keep the game as scheduled to make money."
With its recent surge, Cleveland is among a handful of teams in the league's "enhanced" protocols, meaning all players are tested and some work will be handled remotely. Many believe those testing guidelines should've been in place for all teams sooner in order to prevent outbreaks, with Browns center and NFLPA President JC Tretter among the biggest critics.
Tretter has not commented since Keenum's test results came back, but Mayfield went on to further rip the NFL and call for Saturday's matchup to be postponed.
"Actually caring about player safety would mean delaying the game with this continuing at the rate it is," Mayfield lamented. "Doesn’t make any sense to me."
Under current league rules, vaccinated players who test positive can only return of they later test negative twice at least 24 hours apart, even if they are asymptomatic as at least some of Cleveland's players are. The deadline to get those results is 4 p.m. Friday for the Browns and Raiders, meaning Mayfield is increasingly unlikely to play and Keenum will almost certainly be out. That would put 26-year-old third-stringer Nick Mullins -- who sports a 5-11 record with 25 career touchdowns as a starter -- in line to be under center.
Mayfield was not the only member of the club to sound off on social media Thursday: Starting safety John Johnson III also tested positive and joked that "Somebody at FedEx spilled some COVID on our tests." He also claims he has been "FULLY vaccinated since August."
So far, the NFL has indicated they will not move the game from its scheduled 4:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday. The league did announce today it "will adjust the return-to-participation requirements for those who have recovered from COVID-19," but did not offer specifics and still declined to implement universal daily testing.