NFL news: Rams, Chargers could be forced out of California due to COVID-19 restrictions

By Matt Johnson
Nov 29, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; A general view of SoFi Stadium exterior during the NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NFL news: The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on the NFL, even forcing the San Francisco 49ers to relocate in December. Now, new coronavirus restrictions in California could force the NFL out of the state entirely.

Just days after the 49ers announced their temporary move to Arizona, caused by Santa Clara County’s new health order, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers might need to prepare for similar relocations.

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California released regional stay-at-home orders on Thursday and Los Angeles was among the cities impact by the ruling. With the state experiencing an alarming spike in its daily numbers of new cases, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing major changes to be made.

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According to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, the NFL is already talking to both the Rams and Chargers about safeguarding for a move to an alternative site in December.

Once the Rams and Chargers both saw the 49ers temporarily move to Arizona, both organizations immediately began developing plans for their own relocation. At this early stage, per Yahoo Sports, they are still exploring backup plans for an NFL stadium to play at outside of California.

“Operations may not be able to continue [in California] soon and considering where we’re at in the schedule, dramatic changes like the 49ers’ relocation of operations could encompass the remainder of the season,” an NFL source said, via Charles Robinson. “That could be the case for all of the teams [in California]. The situation is being monitored and how it will impact the rest of the season is a little fluid right now. But the best thing everyone can do is just prepare for any eventuality.”

On Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the order stating California’s stay-at-home order would go into effect under certain conditions. One of those circumstances, a county having fewer than 15% of its ICU available for use. While Los Angeles isn’t under the order right now, the region is seeing “terrifying increases in numbers” as of late and many believe it’s a matter of time until the county falls under the threshold.

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The NFL made preparations for the 49ers to relocate before the season, arranging the schedules so the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals never had a home game on the same day. Things would be more complicated for the Rams and Chargers.

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The Chargers should be able to face the New England Patriots in Week 13 without any issues, but the Week 14 home matchup against the Atlanta Falcons might need to be moved. After that, the team is scheduled to host its final home game on Dec. 17 against the Denver Broncos.

Not only do the Rams have three home games remaining (Dec. 10 vs. NEP, Dec. 20 vs. NYJ, Jan. 3 vs. ARZ), they also have a great shot at making the NFL Playoffs. If they win the NFC West, which is possible, they will host a playoff game in January.

The NFL already had its hands full with COVID-19 outbreaks. Now, entering the most critical stretch of the regular season, there is another hurdle to overcome.