The San Francisco 49ers will play two home games in Arizona after new coronavirus regulations put in place by officials in northern California forced the team to find a temporary new home.
The news came as Covid-19 continues to ravage the NFL. The Denver Broncos were forced to play a back-up wide receiver at quarterback on Sunday after their regular signal-callers were affected by the virus, while the New Orleans Saints were fined heavily for failing to follow mask protocols. All NFL team facilities are closed on Monday and Tuesday because of the rise in Covid-19 cases across the United States, in addition to the “understanding that a number of players and staff celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday with out-of-town guests,” according to a league statement released on Friday.
An outbreak in the Baltimore Ravens camp has led to their crucial game against their fierce rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers being delayed until Tuesday. There were 70 positive tests among NFL players and staff in the week ending 21 November, compared to seven in the first week of the season, at the start of September.
The US as a whole is expecting a further rise in Covid-19 cases in the next few weeks after people travelled to visit family and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday. The virus has killed more than 265,000 people in America, the highest total for any country.
As for the 49ers, they will host the Buffalo Bills next Monday and Washington on 13 December at State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, 700 miles from their base in Santa Clara county. The team said it will have information on practice arrangements later.
The AFC East-leading Bills will be returning to Arizona for the second time in a little over three weeks, following a 32-30 loss to the Cardinals on 15 November.
“The Cardinals organization, State Farm Stadium and League officials have been supportive and accommodating as we work through the many logistical issues involved in relocating NFL games,” the 49ers said in a statement.
Santa Clara county announced new rules on Saturday that include a three-week ban on practices and games for contact sports. The Niners were on a plane getting ready to travel to Los Angeles, where they beat the Rams 23-20 on Sunday, when the players and coaches heard about the rules.
The rules will also affect the San Jose Sharks of the NHL and college teams at Stanford and San Jose State. Along with the ban on contact sports, the new rules require anyone who has traveled more than 150 miles from the county to quarantine for 14 days.