By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
Cleveland Browns center JC Tretter, the president of the NFL Players Association who has pushed the league for daily COVID-19 testing all season, tested positive for the virus on Thursday.
The same goes for the Vikings, running back Dalvin Cook, and Saints quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian. But Washington gets quarterback Taylor Heinicke back.
Tretter posted on Twitter that he was showing symptoms and opted to get tested at the team’s facility in Berea, Ohio.
“Unfortunately, I am positive for COVID-19,” Tretter wrote. “I encourage all NFL players to take every precaution available to them to protect themselves, their families and their teammates against this virus.”
The Browns were hit hard by a string of positive tests last week and 22 players, including Baker Mayfield and coach Kevin Stefanski, were missing for Monday night’s rescheduled game against Las Vegas, which Cleveland lost.
On Wednesday, Tretter spoke to reporters for the first time in weeks and discussed recent challenges for the NFL and the players’ union to navigate the rise in cases due to the omicron variant.
“It’s been a trying week or two for everyone,” Tretter said. “It’s a new variant. When COVID first arrived, we had six months to figure it out and find a way forward. In this case, we had about six days to find out. “
Tretter said he received the vaccine booster and chose to stay away from the facility as the team held meetings virtually. He returned for practice Thursday and tested positive shortly before the Browns took the field.
The league relaxed some of its testing policies last week amid the outbreak among the Browns and other teams. Tretter said the union’s position is that players should be given a choice.
“Our members are a microcosm of the country,” he said. “We have people who are ready to move forward who have done everything that was asked of them, they’ve been vaccinated and made these decisions, and now they want to start like, ‘You know what. ? I am not at risk for serious illness due to my immunization status. I did as they said, and now I’m ready to go back to some normalcy. ‘
“Then we still have guys who don’t want to catch COVID and still want to live a more careful lifestyle. Now everyone has those choices. “
The Browns (7-7), who play Green Bay over Christmas, have recovered two other players from the COVID-19 roster as linebacker Grant Delpit and rookie offensive tackle James Hudson III were activated.
Stefanski returned to the squad on Wednesday. Mayfield has yet to produce the required negative test. His 10-day quarantine ends on Saturday and it’s possible he will play against the Packers even though he hasn’t trained.
– A person familiar with the situation said Hill and replacement Siemian tested positive as New Orleans prepares to host Miami on Monday night. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as the club had yet to announce the transactions on Thursday.
The situation has left Ian Book, a Notre Dame rookie who has been inactive for all 14 games, as the only active QB under contract. It appears Book is online for his first regular season appearance in the NFL. Running back Alvin Kamara has been the Saints’ emergency quarterback for several seasons and could possibly take direct shots as a savage threat.
The latest COVID-19 hit to the Saints came as New Orleans await the return of coach Sean Payton, who did not travel to Tampa Bay for the Saints’ win, has worked from home since he tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday. Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen served as interim head coach.
–The Vikings added Cook, who already has his third straight season from 1,000 yards rushing and is the only NFL player with over 1,200 yards scrimmage in each of the past three years. Cook followed protocols for unvaccinated players. Alexander Mattison, who missed the previous game with COVID-19, is back and will take on the starring role in the backfield.
– Heinicke from Washington was activated from the COVID-19 list and was back in training to execute the offense. Heinicke is set to make his debut against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night after missing the game in Philadelphia while on antivirus protocol with substitute Kyle Allen.
Practice squad tight end Temarrick Hemingway was also dropped from the list. Linebacker Cole Holcomb entered protocol on Wednesday and Washington is preparing to play without him.
With so many Washington assistant coaches in COVID-19 protocol, coach Ron Rivera has led the Scout team’s defense in training. Rivera remained hopeful, cornerback Kendall Fuller and others could be back in time to face the Cowboys.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Whyno and Brett Martel contributed.
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