“It’s almost like dealing with a different disease. I think it’s going to require us to toss out our old game plan and bring a new game plan to bear because we’re dealing with a very different opponent.” – NFL medical director Dr. Allen Sills to King on the Omicron variant
“The firing of Urban Meyer should be a cautionary tale, yet again, for owners who put vaunted college coaches on a pedestal just because they won a lot of games at places like Florida and Ohio State.” – King
“I’m no gambler, but I might put a buck down on a running back winning the MVP for the first time in nine years…(Colts RB Jonathan) Taylor has a legitimate shot to be the first back since Adrian Peterson in 2012 to win the MVP.” – King on the MVP
STAMFORD, Conn. – Dec. 20, 2021 – Peter King discusses the NFL’s new Covid testing plan amid the spread of the Omicron variant and recaps Week 15 in this week’s edition of Football Morning in America, available now exclusively on NBCSports.com. King speaks with NFL medical director Dr. Allen Sills, Washington head coach Ron Rivera, and New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, hands out his Week 15 awards, and more.
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The following are highlights from this week’s edition of Football Morning in America:
King: “Twenty days ago, the United States experienced the first case of Omicron. A week ago, NFL cognoscenti, just beginning to see the Covid testing rate increasing, were still adamant no games would be moved or postponed. Four days after that, three games were moved, culminating a week in which 160 positive tests happened.”
NFL medical director Dr. Allen Sills to King on Omicron: “I don’t think we could have foreseen the magnitude of that increase and how rapidly Omicron would really take over and essentially change the entire game plan. There was some anticipation, but it’s a bit like preparing for a hurricane. You take all the preparations you think you can and then you wait, and then you see how it actually is.”
Sills on Omicron: “It’s almost like dealing with a different disease. I think it’s going to require us to toss out our old game plan and bring a new game plan to bear because we’re dealing with a very different opponent. The most striking thing is the transmissibility and just how quickly it has spread – coming from basically being an unknown entity to now reflecting almost all the cases we’re seeing in a week’s time. It’s unprecedented.”
King on the NFL’s new testing plan: “The league and players agreed to do something counterintuitive this week. They’re going to stop regular testing of players, and begin a ‘targeted’ testing program, focused on players and staff who exhibit symptoms or self-report them.”
King on the NFL moving three games this weekend as a result of positive tests: “For now, I believe the league did the right thing Friday in pushing Raiders-Browns to Monday, and WFT-Philadelphia and Seattle-Rams to Tuesday…Anyone angry about how ‘unfair’ this is to football balance…take a breath. Life intrudes sometimes, the same way it did in the weird start-and-stop-and-start 2020 season.”
Washington head coach Ron Rivera to King on their QB situation this week after positive Covid tests: “We spent hours scanning everyone’s practice squad and on the players we’d worked out since training camp. Because we potentially had our top two quarterbacks out with Covid, it was important to find out who fit us. And Garrett Gilbert was on New England’s practice squad. He’d played for Dallas last year and we liked what we saw, and we thought he could fit our offense well. He might have to play in the ballgame Tuesday night in Philadelphia.”
King on the Saints beating the Buccaneers, 9-0, on Sunday Night Football: “New Orleans had lost five of the last six, the only win a tooth-puller against the Jets, and they were going into the den of the best offense in football. Then Cam Jordan sacked Tom Brady twice, forced a Brady fumble on the Bucs’ best drive when it was still a one-score game, and in general played the game of his NFL life.”
Jordan to King on if last night was the best game of his NFL career: “No way! I had a three-sack night against Michael Vick, and that’s forever gonna be my highlight. I had a four-sack night against Matt Ryan. But this is Tom Brady we’re talking about. I’ll take it. I get it. I’d just counter with those two games.”
King: “The Saints are 2021’s weirdest team…They could sneak into the playoff and be a dangerous defensive wild-card road team because, really, what do they have to lose? … If Tampa wins the NFC South, which is still highly likely, they won’t want to see New Orleans walk into Tampa on Wild Card Weekend.”
King on the MVP race: “I’m no gambler, but I might put a buck down on a running back winning the MVP for the first time in nine years. With three weeks to go in the regular season for the MVP contenders, it looks like Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, are so close you have to separate them by dental floss.”
King on Taylor: “Until this weekend, I wasn’t sure a running back was seriously in the running for it, simply because of the dominance of quarterbacks in the current game, and the fact that a few of them are having typical strong QB seasons. Then Colts 27, Patriots 17 happened. Jonathan Taylor’s performance, along with how the game unfolded, and how the rest of Week 15 has gone, left me thinking Taylor has a legitimate shot to be the first back since Adrian Peterson in 2012 to win the MVP.”
King: “Meanwhile, the quarterbacks who’ve been in the MVP discussion had a mostly lousy weekend…No quarterback with 21 days left in the regular season is a no-doubter, and Taylor keeps rolling with huge games for a rising team. I don’t know if he’ll win it, but he’s making it a heck of a race.”
King on the Steelers: “How the Steelers are still hanging around is beyond me, but that was one tremendous defensive effort to beat Tennessee…The Steelers will be in good shape if they win out, but winning out means beating KC on the road, Cleveland at home and Baltimore on the road.”
Steelers CB Joe Haden to King on making the game-winning fourth down tackle: “I knew exactly where I was. I had my feet on the line [to gain], so I knew I couldn’t let him get past that spot. As long as I could keep him from falling forward, and I did, no way he could get the first down… It was big. Big, man. Coach T [Mike Tomlin] says those are the weighty plays, fourth and short, third and short, with the game on the line. Money plays. We know we can’t control what other teams do, but we can control us.”
King on former Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer: “Seldom in NFL history has a coach entered a market with so much buzz, and seldom has a coach exited less than a year later with so much scorn. The firing of Urban Meyer should be a cautionary tale, yet again, for owners who put vaunted college coaches on a pedestal just because they won a lot of games at places like Florida and Ohio State.”
King on NFL head coach hirings: “So stop looking for the magic wand, the easy fix… It’s better to stay in the NFL, with imaginative young coaches or older ones with pedigrees who know the ropes. And, above all, fix the quarterback.”
King on the Jaguars: “(Jaguars owner Shad) Khan’s task now: Make sure you salvage the franchise quarterback, get a coach you can truly trust who either can fix the quarterback or has a staff that can, and be sure the coach is not a TMZ magnet.”
King on NFL tight ends: “I think we’re in a golden age of tight ends. Think of the impact of tight ends in the last few weeks: Travis Kelce has the most productive game of his 137-game NFL career…George Kittle owned two straight San Francisco foes…Mark Andrews followed up an 11-target, 11-catch performance in Week 14 with another gem on Sunday…Rob Gronkowski is giving Tom Brady the kind of consistent target he gave him in his Patriots prime…(and) Darren Waller, Dawson Knox, Kyle Pitts, Pat Freiermuth, T.J. Hockenson. All big-time threats.”
KING’S WEEK 15 AWARDS
Offensive Players of the Week: Tyler Huntley, Baltimore, Travis Kelce, Kansas City, & Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis.
King on Huntley: “This is not just a good, young backup quarterback we’re watching. This 2020 undrafted QB from Utah has proven that if he takes care of the ball, he’s a good candidate to be a starter at some point in his life.”
Defensive Players of the Week: Cameron Jordan, New Orleans, & Trevon Diggs, Dallas.
King on Jordan: “A few Saints were worthy of this award after the hugely impressive 9-0 shutout of the league’s leading offense at Tampa Bay…A great night for a great player was made even more memorable by Jordan recording his 100th career sack.”
Special Teams Players of the Week: Matthew Adams, Indianapolis, Tremon Smith, Houston, & Blake Gillikin, New Orleans.
King on Smith: “On his fifth team since being Kansas City’s sixth-round pick in 2018, Smith, a cornerback from Central Arkansas, recorded Houston’s first kick return for touchdown since 2009…Thanks in large part to Smith, the Texans no longer dwell in the division cellar.”
Coaches of the Week: Dennis Allen, New Orleans, & Dan Campbell, Detroit.
King on Campbell: “Campbell knew this was a long-haul job, and he never was woe-is-me when the agonizing losses hit. Good for him, and good for this needy franchise.”
The following are additional highlights of NBC Sports’ NFL coverage:
- PFT Live with NBC Sports’ Mike Florio and Mike Golic (Mondays) and Florio and Chris Simms (Tuesday-Thursday) streams live on Peacock from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. ET on weekdays, followed by The Dan Patrick Show at 9 a.m. ET, The Rich Eisen Show at Noon ET, Brother From Another at 3 p.m. ET, PFT PM at 5 p.m. ET. At 6 p.m. ET, Chris Simms Unbuttoned streams Tuesday-Friday.
- ProFootballTalk.com continues to provide the latest news and updates.
- NBC Sports EDGE’s A Good Football Show continues the NFL discussion and Bet The Edge Podcast provides daily betting insights.
A new “Football Morning in America” posts every Monday morning exclusively on NBCSports.com through the NFL season. It was announced in May 2019 that King signed an exclusive agreement with NBC Sports Group that included writing a weekly Monday morning NFL column for NBCSports.com; making regular appearances on PFT Live with Mike Florio; and continuing to contribute to Football Night in America, the most-watched studio show in sports.