The Eagles did everything right.
They stayed safe. They distanced. They wore masks. They took every imaginable precaution to keep COVID out of the NovaCare Complex.
And it worked.
The Eagles players and coaches all took this very seriously. They made sure not to put themselves at risk and put team goals ahead of individual desires.
You can’t control everything, but the Eagles controlled everything they could.
While Washington, the Browns and other teams deal today with massive COVID outbreaks, the Eagles currently have one player from their 53-man roster on the COVID Reserve list - wide receiver Quez Watkins.
Through the first 14 weeks of the regular season, they had only two players miss time while on the COVID list - backup guard Sua Opeta missed two games and Dallas Goedert missed one.
And what’s the Eagles' reward for being so careful? For being so diligent? For doing all the right things over the past three months no matter how challenging and difficult? For giving themselves every imaginable chance to be healthy on Sunday afternoons?
Their reward is having their game against Washington moved from Sunday to Tuesday, so the Washington Football Team can get some of its players back while a COVID outbreak runs through their facility in Ashburn, Va.
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Not only does this mess up the Eagles this week – they’re ready to play football Sunday with a healthy roster – it forces them to play a crucial game against the Giants next week on a ridiculously short week.
So the Eagles handled this correctly every step of way, and they’re the ones who get penalized.
Makes no sense.
Nobody wants to see a team play football with 15 practice squad players, an undrafted quarterback nobody’s heard of and a bunch of rookie backups elevated to the starting lineup.
But in the interest of competitive integrity, teams can never be penalized for doing the right thing while their rival benefits.
The Eagles and Washington are in the middle of a battle for a wild-card berth, and with the two extra days to get players cleared through COVID protocols, Washington’s chances to win on Tuesday will naturally be much greater than on Sunday.
And what about the Eagles’ routine? They practice and prepare a certain way each week to be ready for 1 o’clock Sunday. Now, with the practice week literally over, they find they have 54 extra hours to fill.
Do they hold extra practices? Would the NFLPA even allow them to practice a fourth day, which goes against the CBA? Does Nick Sirianni just tell his guys to leave the NovaCare Friday afternoon and see you in four days at the Linc? Do they hold extra meetings?
The NFL has put the Eagles in an extremely difficult position and it could not be more unfair.
The “burden of the delay,” as the NFL called it in a July memo to the 32 teams, has to fall on the team experiencing the outbreak, not the team that’s been a model in how to navigate your way through a pandemic while also preparing to play football every Sunday.
They’re celebrating at Washington‘s facility right now and they’re disappointed at the NovaCare Complex.
The NFL has made the Eagles’ road to the playoffs a significantly more difficult one for the crime of doing exactly the right thing each of the last 14 weeks.