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Construction worker at new Raiders stadium tests positive for COVID-19

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A construction worker at the Raiders‘ new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mortenson-McCarthy Builders said Wednesday the worker had not been in close contact with any other project worker and had been offsite since last week. The worker is self-isolating for 14 days and won’t return to work until cleared.

Mortenson-McCarthy says the area of the stadium where the worker was assigned and the surrounding vicinity were immediately shut down and sanitized. Work in other parts of the stadium has been unaffected and the stadium is still scheduled to be completed this summer.

Fox5 in Las Vegas first reported the news.

The Raiders are set to begin play in the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat indoor stadium this fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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NFL Week 1 holding calls down 78 percent compared to 2019 season

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Offensive holding penalties in the NFL plummeted to their lowest Week 1 total in at least 20 seasons, an unexpected drop that was noticeable throughout the league’s first weekend of games.

Officials threw only 18 flags for offensive holding across the league, a drop of 78% from Week 1 in 2019 and 58.6% from the five-year average from 2014-18, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for context on the drop. And while it helped smooth over the league’s quality of play after an abridged training camp and canceled preseason, the trend is better viewed as part of a multi-year attempt to calibrate what is annually one of the most damaging fouls in the game.

The process began in Week 13 of the 2018 season, when the NFL instructed officials to step up enforcement against certain blocking techniques that they hadn’t previously penalized. The result was a one-week surge to 94 offensive holding calls, the most ever in any week that ESPN has data for.

The trend resumed at the start of the 2019 season, when the league made “lobster blocks” and other techniques a point of emphasis. Offensive holding flags increased to record numbers during the first two weeks of the season, jumping 66% percent from 2018. There were 178 such penalties in 64 games, including 82 in the first 32 games, before the NFL competition committee ordered a return to baseline numbers.

This season, the pendulum has swung initially in the other direction. The previous low in a Week 1 was 26 in 2001, the first year for which ESPN Stats & Information has weekly penalty data. As a result, there were only 199 total flags thrown in Week 1, including those that were declined or offset, the second-lowest total in Week 1 since 2001.

While it is possible that players have improved their techniques and blocking skills since the end of last season, the shift carries the same sudden hallmarks as previous pivot points in this process.

“Officials are good soldiers,” said ESPN officiating analyst John Parry. “They hear the message and they perform based on what they’ve been instructed to call. At this level, they are that good. Whatever the marching orders are, that’s how they will officiate.”

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Source — Bengals claim ex-Browns kicker Austin Seibert off waivers

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CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals have claimed former Cleveland Browns kicker Austin Seibert off waivers, a source confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday.

The Bengals picked up Seibert two days before Cincinnati travels to Cleveland to face Seibert’s former team. The move comes as both of Ohio’s NFL franchises face some uncertainty about their respective kicking situations.

Cleveland signed Cody Parkey to the 53-man roster and waived Seibert on Monday after the second-year player missed both of his kicks in a 38-6 loss to Baltimore on Sunday. Seibert missed a 41-yard field goal and a point after attempt that ricocheted off the left upright.

In Cincinnati, Bengals starting kicker Randy Bullock was listed with calves problems on the team’s Monday injury report after he suffered a cramp at the end of Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Bullock said he suffered a cramp in his left calf as he attempted a 31-yard field goal that went wide right with two seconds left in regulation.

Bullock was good on attempts from 50 and 43 yards earlier in the game.

On Monday, Bengals coach Zac Taylor was hesitant to place the bulk of the blame on Bullock and suggested there was no immediate need to get a starting kicker.

“We all made mistakes in that game,” Taylor said. “I think anybody who watched the kick, he didn’t kick it like he usually does so obviously something happened. He cramped up. He hasn’t made any excuse for it. It’s just what happened.”

Because of the quick turnaround and COVID-19 clearance protocols, Taylor said Wednesday would be the soonest to add a player to the practice squad roster.

NFL Network was first to report the Bengals claiming Seibert.

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Sean McVay’s Rams ‘ecosystem’ challenging — even for its creator – Los Angeles Rams Blog

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Sean McVay paced the sideline with an intense furrow in his brow and a Los Angeles Rams-branded face mask under his chin.

The Rams defeated the Dallas Cowboys on “Sunday Night Football,” but a day later McVay — and several other NFL coaches — drew a harsh warning from the league for violating the league’s coronavirus safety protocols by not properly wearing face coverings.

McVay’s mask-under-the-chin style also violated the team safety guidelines he’s been preaching since the Rams returned in person after a long offseason online.

“It’s about educating our guys on how they can risk-mitigate,” McVay said at the outset of training camp. “Really establish a good ecosystem.”

McVay’s signature phrases, “We Not Me” and “The Standard is the Standard,” have been plastered to the walls of the team practice facility since his arrival more than three years ago.

He continues to drop his go-to words throughout daily news conferences — “activate,” “respect” and “appreciate.”

But this one — “ecosystem”?

Yeah, that’s new, sponsored by 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Was that part of McVay’s lexicon before this season? “Hell no,” the 34-year-old coach insisted. But it’s now something the players hear about ad nauseam. How much?

“That’s a loaded question,” center Brian Allen said, following a slight pause, seemingly an opportunity to somehow try to count how many times it’s mentioned. “We’ve been hearing about it a lot.”

Veteran defensive linemen Michael Brockers breaks down the meaning of the Rams’ ecosystem in simple terms.

“We plan on keeping it free and clear of corona,” he said, referring to the training facility, stadium and everywhere their traveling party goes.

And that’s possible how?

“Embrace the weird,” said wide receiver Cooper Kupp, because at this point, what other options exist when playing football amid a pandemic and with a coach who’s constantly using a word many people most recently heard as a teenager? That’s when left guard Joe Noteboom previously heard the term, which describes a community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

“Probably early high school,” he said. “Like biology or something?”

Quarterback Jared Goff knows exactly where he first heard the term.

“Freshman marine biology at Marin Catholic High School,” Goff said, later admitting what many of us can also attest to: “I know nothing about the old ecosystem. I know a lot about ours now at this point.”

And frankly, with the Rams off to a 1-0 start and preparing to embark on back-to-back East Coast trips to play the Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) and Buffalo Bills (1-0), that’s all that matters.

They know to wear their face masks (even if their coach sometimes lets his slip). They undergo daily testing, temperature screenings and follow the marching orders on the floors of their practice facility — where one-lane hallways are designated and one-way entrances and exits are mandated.

Along with the McVay-designed compass that provides a guide to “Competitive Greatness,” which he installed last season, the acronym MESH also has been added to the walls of the practice facility, while the locker room at SoFi Stadium comes complete with a sanitizer station.

M — Mask; E — Education; S — Social distance; and H — Hygiene.

“As long as we’re smart, and everybody’s doing the right things day in and day out to keep the ecosystem right, you can go play football with a quieted mind,” McVay said.

Trackers on their wrists have created a soundtrack — high-pitched beeps that intensify when in too close a range for proper social distancing — that could irritate even the most even-keeled.

Kupp says, with the season underway, following the safety protocols is becoming old habit, but not one that can go without thinking about.

“You definitely fall into a little bit of a rhythm to it,” Kupp said. “It’s something we’re definitely not taking lightly.”

Unlike some teams, the Rams have taken a less aggressive approach to stashing backups and isolating key players, particularly quarterbacks, in case of an outbreak.

Goff, who passed for 275 yards with an interception against Cowboys, is the starter, while undrafted free agent John Wolford, who never has played in a regular-season NFL game, remains as backup. Quarterback Bryce Perkins, a rookie undrafted free agent from Virginia, is on the practice squad.

Two Rams players, outside linebacker Terrell Lewis and defensive lineman Michael Hoecht, were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list when players first reported to training camp in August, but both have long since been cleared of any infection. With coronavirus tests being administered daily, the Rams have not seen another player test positive.

As for McVay and his Week 1 mask violation, he understands he was among the top targets of the NFL’s sternly worded warning directed at protocol violators.

“I was definitely one of the main culprits of not following what the league wants,” McVay said. “And I will definitely be aware of that and do better the next week.”

Even though he’s accustomed to using a multitude of facial expressions to get his message across during a game, McVay might go with a gaiter in Week 2 but isn’t quite ready to go full Andy Reid and sport a face shield on the sideline.

“Coach Reid is one of the few that can pull off whatever it is, man,” McVay says. “He’s the man. I think that would maybe be a little bit easier to communicate through, but I think I’ll stick with the mask.”

Almost anything to protect the ecosystem.

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