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Miami Dolphins' schedule overhauled because of COVID-19

New England's COVID-related postponement vs. Denver is to blame

Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post
Coach Brian Flores' team will now face the Jets next weekend.

The Dolphins have kept COVID-19 out of their facility for nearly two months. Even that isn’t enough.

The Dolphins awoke in San Francisco on Sunday to learn that the schedule they thought they had this season has been turned upside down through no fault of their own.

The New England Patriots closed their facility Sunday after another positive test result, forcing the league to postpone their game against the Denver Broncos to next weekend. Since the Dolphins were originally scheduled to visit Denver next week, this created an overhaul of Miami’s schedule unlike any ever seen in Dolphins history.

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The Dolphins instead will host Adam Gase and the New York Jets at 4:05 p.m. next Sunday.

Rather than having a bye in Week 11, they will have a bye in Week 7, on Oct. 25.

Their next two weekends will go off as planned: Nov. 1 vs. the Los Angeles Rams and Nov. 8 at the Arizona Cardinals.

Then, more change: The Dolphins will host the Los Angeles Chargers at 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 15 (they were supposed to play the Jets that day) and then visit Denver at 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 22 (originally their bye).

Dolphins coach Brian Flores made the unusual decision to call a meeting the morning of a game to inform the players.

"I talked to them about the schedule changes so there was some clarity for them in what was going on for the next few days," Flores said. "I answered all their questions and said, 'Let's focus on the 49ers.' "

Flores wasn't critical of the league's decision.

"Everyone's got to adjust and be flexible," he said. "We've got to adapt."

Schedule changes nothing new

This marks the second time in four seasons the Dolphins have ended up with a less-preferred bye week because of circumstances they couldn’t control. Their bye in 2017 was forced to shift to Week 1 because of Hurricane Irma, leaving the Dolphins with 16 consecutive games.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores watches on the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Now, instead of playing 10 consecutive games to open the season before getting a week to rest, the Dolphins will close out the regular season with 10 consecutive games.

On the other hand, it relieves them of any concerns they may have had of playing the Broncos a week after the Broncos had played a team battling to prevent an outbreak.

Reactions around the NFL

The Patriots had been wrestling with the pandemic the previous 10 days, during which time their facility was shut down three times. Quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the reigning defensive player of the year, are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Patriots-Broncos game was first moved from Sunday to Monday.

“I’m fully prepared to react and improvise, no matter what happens," Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Sunday. "And in a weird way, I'm kind of happy to see some of this stuff happen. Because you see who the whiners are, who the bitchers are, and who can't handle adversity. And I'm going to try hard that the Denver Broncos don't fall into any of those categories.''

He failed.

Denver running back Melvin Gordon and safety Justin Simmons tweeted their objections.

“Ain't no way we practiced all week and they canceled our game," Gordon wrote. "IM HOT ON GOD I AM."

Simmons wrote, “Injuries at an all time high and our bye week was burned up with practices." Simmons also retweeted Ryan Koenigsberg, a columnist and podcast host, who tweeted, “Imagine going to school all week, being told you have to go into school on Saturday and then being told on Sunday, “That was Spring Break!”

That wasn’t the NFL’s only COVID-related issue Sunday morning. The Tennessee Titans closed their facility temporarily after a positive test of a staffer, which NFL Network reported was a coach. For now, the Titans’ reschedule game against the host Buffalo Bills remains on for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The Titans had made it through two days without a positive result but have seen 24 members of the organization test positive since late September.

“That’s just the situation we’re in,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill, formerly of the Dolphins, said in a video news conference Saturday. “We didn’t choose this. But we’re living in the middle of a pandemic and this came up.”

The NFL is investigating off-site workouts involving the Titans while their facility was closed. Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo warning teams that violating COVID protocol could trigger schedule changes and even the forfeiture of games or draft picks.

Tannehill said he has “lost some faith in the testing system.” Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty wondered if player safety is the league’s priority.

"I think outside of here, the people that don't have to walk in our building — whether it is the league office, whether it is the NFLPA — they don't care," McCourty said. "For them, it is not about our best interest, or our health and safety, it is about, 'What can we make protocol-wise that sounds good, looks good, and how can we go out there and play games?' I think what I kind of learned personally throughout this situation is it is going to be up to us as individuals in this building to just really take care of one another."

Dolphins' revised schedule

Date     Opponent                      TV         Time

Oct. 18 NEW YORK JETS          CBS       4:05 p.m.

Oct. 25 BYE

Nov. 1   LOS ANGELES RAMS   Fox        1 p.m.

Nov. 8   at Arizona Cardinals       CBS        4:25 p.m.

Nov. 15 L.A. CHARGERS           CBS         4:05 p.m.

Nov. 22 at Denver Broncos         CBS         4:05 p.m.

Nov. 29 at N.Y. Jets                     CBS          1 p.m.

Dec. 6   CINCINNATI BENGALS CBS          1 p.m.

Dec. 13 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS CBS          1 p.m.

Dec. 20 N.E. PATRIOTS               CBS          1 p.m.

Dec. 27 at Las Vegas Raiders      TBA           TBA

Jan. 3 at Buffalo Bills                     CBS          1 p.m.