The NFL is making its first “Sunday Night Football” flex of the 2020 season, though it has nothing to do with the quality of the originally scheduled game.
The league announced Thursday afternoon that Sunday’s showcase on NBC, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) visiting the Las Vegas Raiders (3-2), would be moved to the 4:05 p.m. ET window on Fox. The Seattle Seahawks’ visit to the Arizona Cardinals will move into the prime-time slot.
“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure that a game would be available for fans on Sunday Night Football,” read a statement from the NFL.
“We expect the Buccaneers-Raiders game to be played on Sunday afternoon. Scheduling decisions are made to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts.”
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Raiders offensive tackle Trent Brown and rookie cornerback Damon Arnette were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday. Las Vegas, which is coming off its bye week, subsequently sent its entire offensive line home from yesterday’s practice as a precaution. Arnette is currently on injured reserve.
However according to ESPN, the remainder of the O-line (guards Denzelle Good and Gabe Jackson, center Rodney Hudson and left tackle Kolton Miller) plus safety Johnathan Abram are bound for the virus list, too.
After shuffling a series of games and bye weeks following a viral outbreak within the Tennessee Titans organization and enough positives among the New England Patriots to move their Week 5 game with the Denver Broncos to Week 6, the league’s 17-game scheduled appeared to be back on track entering Week 7.
If the Bucs-Raiders matchup cannot be played in Week 7 – and the NFL has already shown willingness to play as late as Tuesday night – the league may be forced to add an 18th week to the regular season given Las Vegas no longer has an open date in its calendar.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis