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NFL teams keep close watch on COVID-19, but all Week 9 games are on

Associated Press

All NFL games are on for this weekend while teams deal with COVID-19 issues.

Depending on their situations, teams were either steering clear of or returning to their facilities Friday, one day after the Packers beat the 49ers even though both clubs were missing key players due to coronavirus infections or exposure.

The Cincinnati Bengals kept players away from their training facility, while tackle Fred Johnson and defensive back Trae Waynes were placed on the COVID-19 list. Players have not been in the facility since Wednesday and will not return until next week because they are on a bye, though players had to remain in Cincinnati to be tested for the coronavirus daily.

The Atlanta Falcons canceled practice and worked virtually after a member of the football staff tested positive. The Falcons said the move was “out of an abundance of caution” while contact tracing is used to determine if anyone else might have been exposed.

Atlanta hosts Denver on Sunday.

“The whole reason we’re doing it is to get guys to the game,” coach Raheem Morris said. “We want to make sure we go through all the precautionary measures to play the game. Everybody wants to play the game.”

A Miami Dolphins assistant coach, also unidentified, tested positive for COVID-19 and was quarantined. It was the first coronavirus case involving the Dolphins since Aug. 19, but their regular-season schedule was changed because of outbreaks involving other teams.

Receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. went on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

The Dolphins are scheduled to play Sunday at Arizona.

The Packers, who won 34-17 Thursday night at the 49ers, placed linebacker Krys Barnes and reserve quarterback Jordan Love on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Barnes played in the victory and the Packers announced in the first half he had left with a calf injury.

The 49ers had four players on the reserve/COVID-19 list for Thursday night’s game: Receivers Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne and Deebo Samuel, and tackle Trent Williams. All four were activated from the list Friday after Bourne had a second straight negative test.

“I dealt with the disappointment yesterday,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Finding out that it was negative today, I was glad for Kendrick and those guys.”

The Chicago Bears placed center Cody Whitehair on the COVID-19 list and activated starting right guard Germain Ifedi from it on Friday. Ifedi was placed on the list along with backup offensive tackle Jason Spriggs on Tuesday. Coach Matt Nagy said this week that Spriggs tested positive for the coronavirus and Ifedi was put on the list because of a close contact.

The Bears canceled practice and closed their facility Thursday after a positive test. The team was cleared that night by the NFL to practice Friday.

Chicago plays at Tennessee on Sunday.

The Detroit Lions had a staff member test positive for COVID-19 and the team entered the league’s intensive protocol. The unidentified staffer immediately self-quarantined and had not been in the Lions’ practice facility for the last 48 hours.

The Houston Texans returned to their facility a day after it was closed following a positive COVID-19 test by a player. Linebacker Jacob Martin’s positive test on Wednesday night forced the closure of the facility Thursday. Linebackers Whitney Mercilus and Dylan Cole will also miss Sunday’s game at Jacksonville after the NFL determined they had been in close contact with Martin.

The league has been busy handing out discipline to teams violating COVID-19 protocols.

On Friday, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was fined $100,000 and the club $250,000 because coaches improperly wore facial coverings last Sunday, a person with knowledge of the fines told The Associated Press.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the fines have not been announced, said Tomlin was among the coaches cited for “not wearing face coverings at all times on the sidelines” during the victory over the Baltimore Ravens. The NFL recently told its 32 teams to have all personnel wear masks in lockers rooms and on the sideline when not in the game. Players are required to wear masks during postgame contacts with opponents as well.

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden defended the way the team has handled the coronavirus despite it being hit with a hefty penalty for violations from the league.

A person familiar with the punishment said the team was fined $500,000, Gruden docked $150,000 and the team stripped of a sixth-round draft pick because of how the Raiders handled Trent Brown’s positive coronavirus test last month. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made.

“I’m just going to say, very proud of our organization, how we have handled this entire protocol and this entire process and I’m not going to comment any further than that,” Gruden said Friday. “I believe we’re on the cutting edge of being the best at servicing players and I’ll leave it at that.”

The team is appealing the punishment.

The Raiders have been penalized several times this season for violating coronavirus protocols, with the punishments leading to a total of more than $1.2 million for the team, Gruden and players. They are the first to be penalized a draft pick following multiple violations.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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