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There’s one wild card the NFL expects to crash the playoffs: COVID-19.

Chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said on Thursday that overseas patterns of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus indicate the NFL should brace for high numbers the next “two-three weeks.”

“When we start talking about projecting where we’re going to be, I like to quote that great medical scientist Yogi Berra, who says it’s really difficult to make projections, especially about the future,” Sills said in an NFL Network interview. “If we’ve learned anything, it’s that COVID can take us a lot of different directions. If this follows the trend we’ve seen in other countries, we do expect there will be a rapid decline with Omicron.

“I would see us being in the thick of this the next 2-3 weeks. Then hopefully seeing declining cases as we get later in our playoffs. We’ve been wrong about where this thing goes before.”

Several prominent players were among the lot added to the COVID/reserve list this week, including front-and-centre starters for playoff teams such as Bengals running back Joe Mixon, Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith and Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons.

Parsons is officially out for Saturday’s game and won’t travel to Philadelphia with the team.

Protocol for COVID-19 testing and return to play shifted along with CDC guidelines shortening quarantine periods from 10 days to five days.

For playoff teams, that makes next Tuesday and Wednesday critical for testing, although asymptomatic, vaccinated players can be cleared before the five-day quarantine window.

An unvaccinated player testing positive next Tuesday would not be cleared to return for a Saturday wild-card game. The same is true of Wednesday testing for players scheduled to play wild card Sunday.

Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday the team is opening hotel rooms at the team headquarters, The Star, for players planning to create a “bubble” environment for the playoffs.

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