Two names added to updated New York Rangers COVID protocols

Ryan Lindgren and Alexandar Georgiev have joined Patrik Nemeth on the Rangers’ COVID-19 list as they wait for the green light to return.

The New York Rangers confirmed that two more names had been added to their COVID-19 list, as goaltender Alexandar Georgiev and defenseman Ryan Lindgren joined Patrik Nemeth.

The placement of Georgiev and Lindgren will temporarily deny the Rangers (19-7-4) the services of two major contributors to their hot start. Lindgren (as well as Nemeth) has appeared in all 30 Ranger games this season and leads the team with a plus/minus of 9. Georgiev filled in serviceably for injured primary netminder Igor Shesterkin, amassing a 5-3-2 record with a 2.87 goals against average to go with a .902 save percentage.

In the midst of the ongoing health crisis, namely the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, the Rangers have not played since a shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 17. Two further games at Madison Square Garden (Dec. 22 against Montreal and Monday’s visit from Detroit) have since been postponed as part of a league-wide pause, with games scheduled to resume on Tuesday. New York’s next scheduled game lands on Wednesday against the Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET, MSG 2).

Though the Rangers have not made any announcements, it’s likely that they will recall Keith Kinkaid from AHL Hartford to take over for Georgiev as Shesterkin nears a return. The former New Jersey Devil is in the midst of his second season with the Rangers and made his season debut on Dec. 15, stopping 29 shots in a 3-2 win over Arizona. In terms of blue-line help, Hartford defensemen with notable NHL experience include Zac Jones, Jarred Tinordi, and Anthony Bitetto.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Damyean Dotson returns to Knicks via hardship exception rule

New York Knicks, Damyean Dotson

The New York Knicks have signed Damyean Dotson as their second replacement player after Tyler Hall.

Shams Charania of The Athletic first reported the signing.

Dotson was the Knicks’ second-round pick in 2017 and played for the team and its G League affiliate in Westchester until 2020.

Dotson played for the Cleveland Cavaliers last season after getting waived by the Knicks. He has career averages of 7.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 211 games. He enjoyed his best year in the league with the Knicks in the 2018-19 season, averaging 10.7 points per game.

Dotson will be available to play for the Knicks when they host the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Based on the new memo agreed upon by the NBA and NBPA, the Knicks are allowed to sign a replacement player for each COVID-19 case. Currently, the Knicks have six players in the health and safety protocols.

Obi Toppin, the first Knicks player to test positive, is scheduled to finish his 10-day quarantine Monday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NHL game suspensions start Rangers’ Christmas break early

With the NHL suspending cross-border travel, the Rangers will have ten days off before their next game on Dec. 27.

The New York Rangers’ Christmas vacation is starting earlier than anticipated.

In the wake of the ongoing health crisis, the NHL has postponed all games involving travel between the United States and Canada through Dec. 27. The Rangers’ Wednesday tilt against the Montreal Canadiens was among the dozen games affected by the suspension.

As a result, the Rangers (19-7-4) are next scheduled to play on Dec. 27 against the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET, MSG). New York ends its pre-Christmas slate in third place in the Metropolitan Division, a point behind both the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals.

Rising COVID-19 cases across the league have caused some teams to pause their proceedings until after the scheduled end of the holiday break on Dec. 27. With the added dozen brought upon by the border deal, 39 games on the regular season docket will now require rescheduling. The Rangers’ Nov. 28 game against the New York Islanders, brought upon by excess cases with the opponent, has already been moved to March 17.

The NHL and its players’ association released a joint statement on Sunday that vowed to play as many games as possible prior to the Christmas break. Both sides appear dedicated to avoiding a league-wide pause, though players’ participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is in major doubt.

“Though there has been a recent increase in positive COVID test results among Players, coaches and hockey staff, there have been a low number of positive cases that have resulted in concerning symptoms or serious illness,” a joint statement between from the NHL and NHLPA reads. “Therefore, the NHLPA’s and NHL’s medical experts have determined that, with virtually all Players and Club hockey staff fully vaccinated, the need to temporarily shut down individual teams should continue to be made on a case-by-case basis. The effects of recently introduced enhanced prevention and detection measures will be evaluated daily.”

As for the Olympics, which were set to feature NHL players for the first time since the 2014 Games in Sochi, the statement declares that the league and the NHLPA are “actively discussing” the matter of participation. The league’s February schedule features a three-week break to allow for players’ participation in the Beijing Games, but that period of inactive could now be used for rescheduled games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Igor Shesterkin off IR, Patrik Nemeth in COVID protocol

The Rangers inched closer to welcoming back their star goaltender but have lost a defenseman to health and safety protocols.

The New York Rangers announced on Saturday that star goaltender Igor Shesterkin has been removed from injured reserve, sending Keith Kinkaid back to AHL Hartford. Additionally, defenseman Patrik Nemeth was placed in COVID protocols.

Shesterkin has not played since leaving Dec. 3’s win over San Jose with a non-contact lower-body injury. His efforts spurred the Rangers’ hot start that currently has them amongst the Metropolitan Division’s elite. Shesterkin had begun traveling with the team on its recent road trip but now returns to the active roster with this move.

Despite missing the last eight games, Shesterkin (13-3-2, 2.05 GAA) continues to pace the NHL’s qualifying goaltenders in save percentage at .937. The Rangers (19-7-4) have performed respectably in his absence, having gone 4-3-1 with the services of Kinkaid, Alexandar Georgiev, and Adam Huska. Georgiev has taken over the primary duties, going 3-2-1 with a .935 save percentage in the seven games since Shesterkin’s injury.

Nemeth, in the midst of his first season with the Rangers after eight prior seasons with Dallas, Colorado, and Detroit, has been placed in COVID protocols, the team’s first entrant in the NHL’s recent uptick in cases amidst the Omicron variant. He has partaken in all 30 games this season, earning two assists on the third defensive pairing.

It should be noted that the Arizona Coyotes, the Rangers’ Wednesday opponent, placed three players on their own COVID list, including Jay Beagle, Lawson Crouse, and Alex Galchenyuk.

For the time being, the Rangers are currently scheduled to take on the Montreal Canadiens at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, MSG). It will be their final game before five scheduled days off for the league’s annual Christmas break.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Proposed new hardship exception may force Knicks to add player

obi toppin, knicks

The New York Knicks are down to nine healthy bodies in the rotation after Immanuel Quickley tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose (sore ankle) is still questionable to play in Saturday’s game in Boston.

The Knicks have yet to add additional players via the hardship exception. But they may be forced to if the NBA Board of Governors’ new proposed plan gets approved.

The NBA Board of Governors convened Friday and they proposed a new plan that would curb the postponement of games, according to an ESPN report. Two Chicago Bulls’ games have already been postponed in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 surge around the league.

Under the new proposed plan, teams would be required to add a 10-day player via the hardship exception after a second, third and fourth COVID-19 case.

In the proposed plan, after the first case of COVID, a team would be permitted to add a 10-day player, league sources said, but after a second, third and fourth case, teams would be required to add a 10-day player. Teams would be limited to three replacement players, but the new plan would, overall, require teams to maintain enough depth so that the league wouldn’t be forced to cancel or postpone games because some teams didn’t have the league-required eight healthy players.

Under the plan, the additional replacement players also wouldn’t count against that respective team’s salary cap or luxury tax, league sources said.

Previously, the hardship exemption was solely under the discretion of the teams. Some teams have already availed. But some, like the Knicks, have yet to use the exception rule. The hardship exemption under the CBA rules allows teams to exceed the 15-man roster limit in times of need (when multiple players are out because of injury or illness).

The league and the National Basketball Players Association still have to agree to the new proposed plan before it takes effect.

If the new plan gets approval, the Knicks would have to add players even if Rose and the first few Knicks under protocols return to the lineup.

Obi Toppin, their first player to test positive, could clear health and safety protocols two days from now. Under the current health and safety protocols guideline, players who test positive should be sidelined for at least 10 days or record two negative COVID-19 tests in a 24-hour period before they can resume basketball activities.

Toppin entered the health and safety protocols last Dec. 10 after their game in Toronto. The infection quickly spread around the team. RJ Barrett, rookie Quentin Grimes, Kevin Knox are the other three Knicks players in the health and safety protocols. At the same time, MSG analyst Clyde Frazier and sideline reporter Rebecca Haarlow also tested positive.

The NBA and NBPA have also agreed to stricter measures amid the spike of COVID-19 cases. On Thursday, the league issued a memorandum that requires players and Tier 1 personnel to wear masks at all times with only two exceptions: during on-court basketball activities for players and head coaches during games.

The league will also ramp up testing during the holidays. From Dec. 26 to Jan. 8, players and staff will be tested on game days except for those who received their booster shot 14-plus days earlier or recently recovered from the virus.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Postponed Rangers-Islanders game moved to St. Patrick’s Day

The NHL has made March 17 a holiday in more ways than one, as the Islanders and Rangers will do battle at MSG.

New York hockey fans will be more than happy to add a little blue to their St. Patrick’s Day proceedings.

The National Hockey League announced on Tuesday that Nov. 28’s postponed game between the New York Islanders and New York Rangers will now be staged on Mar. 17 at Madison Square Garden. Faceoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET with coverage likely carried on the networks of MSG.

That postponed weekend matchup was one of two Islander games delayed by a COVID-19 induced pause, the other being a Nov. 30 visit to Philadelphia. The latter contest against the Flyers has yet to be rescheduled.

Despite its move, the Mar. 17 contest still be the second iteration of this season’s in-state hockey rivalry and the first at MSG. Two further matchups are scheduled for April. The Rangers took away the first meeting on Nov. 24 by a 4-1 final at the first get-together at the Islanders’ new Belmont-based home of UBS Arena. En route to their second consecutive NHL semifinal appearance, the Islanders won six of the eight meetings placed on last year’s division rival-heavy schedule, which included a 3-1-0 mark in Manhattan.

News of the shift came shortly before each team earned big wins in Tuesday night action. The Rangers (17-4-3)  stretched their winning streak to seven with a 6-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks while the Islanders (6-10-5) stopped an 11-game winless skid in Ottawa, topping the Senators 5-3. A return to UBS Arena awaits the Islanders on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. ET, MSG+) while the Blueshirts immediately return to action on Wednesday at home against Colorado (7 p.m. ET, MSG 2/NHL Network).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder OUT for opener at Carolina

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

The New York Jets will be missing their most consistent offensive weapon from the last two seasons when they visit Carolina on Sunday.

New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder will not partake in Sunday’s 2021 season opener against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Crowder’s absence stems from a positive test for COVID-19 and he remains on the reserve list.

Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed Crowder’s departure during his Friday statements. Saleh also said that the status of another receiver, Keelan Cole (knee), would be “down to the wire”.

“From a COVID standpoint, he’ll be out,” Saleh said, per notes from the Jets. Asked about the backup plan if Cole is unable to play, Saleh referred to it as “something we’ll talk about” before the team departs for Charlotte.

Crowder has been the Jets’ most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons. He has earned a team-best 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which have gone for touchdowns. Each of those marks is good for the team lead over the last couple of seasons. Crowder is set to enter his third season with the Jets after inking a three-year deal in 2019. Formerly of Washington, Crowder restructured the final year of his contract to center on guaranteed money this offseason ($4.5 million).

Though the Jets could be without two of their slot targets on Sunday, Saleh had a more optimistic outlook for starting tackle Mekhi Becton. The sophomore blocker has dealt with a concussion issue over the past few weeks but is expected to be ready for the matchup with the Panthers.

“He’s had his ups and downs, obviously, dealing with Carl (Lawson) which I think a lot of people would,” Saleh said of Becton’s summer. “I thought it’s been productive for him, this is a new technique, running off the ball, the pass sets, the protections, it’s all different, where he’s not just running gap schemes and just trying to overpower people, there’s more space than he’s being put in.”

“There’s been a lot of production for him and not even worried about him, he’s going to be fine, pass setting is pass setting, so expecting him to be dominant like he has been. From a run game standpoint, he moves people, that’s what he does best. It’s going to be fun to watch him play.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets WR Jamison Crowder tests positive for COVID-19 (Report)

Crowder’s status for the New York Jets’ opener on Sept. 12 in Carolina likely comes down to his vaccination status.

Per Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder has tested positive for COVID-19.

Crowder, set to enter his third season in green, had not appeared in any practices this week. Head coach Robert Saleh said he was dealing with a groin issue and was labeled day-to-day, per notes from the Jets. The Jets reportedly believed that Crowder’s diagnosis is an isolated incident.

With just over a week before the Jets’ season opener against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 12 (1 p.m. ET, CBS), Crowder’s kickoff weekend status will come down to his vaccination status. NFL health policies introduced this season have incentivized vaccinations. If an unvaccinated player tests positive, they must sit out a minimum of 10 days before return to the team. Vaccinated players, on the other hand, can be welcomed back to team activities with two negative tests in a 24-hour span.

Crowder is the Jets’ top returning receiver and has likely been the team’s most consistent offensive weapon over the last two seasons (137 receptions, 1,512 yards, 12 touchdowns). Formerly of Washington, Crowder restructured the final season of a three-year deal inked in 2019 this summer. It’s an adjustment that sliced his $10 million base salary in half but now centers on guaranteed money ($4.5 million).

The Duke alum played sparingly in the preseason, earning only a single four-yard reception. He is nonetheless expected to reprise his role in the slot alongside a revamped New York receiving corps. The Jets welcomed in Corey Davis and Keelan Cole through free agency and drafted Elijah Moore in the second round of April’s draft. Crowder is joined by fellow active roster returnees Denzel Mims and Braxton Berrios.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Fans’ return to MetLife Stadium sets up a special NFL preseason game

It’s all too appropriate that fans return to MetLife Stadium coincides with the resumption of the game dubbed the “Snoopy Bowl”.

Those who venture out to MetLife Stadium on Saturday night will probably forget the final score of the game they paid to see once they get back on Route 3 or the New Jersey Turnpike. But the important part is…they’ll have ventured out to MetLife Stadium.

It’s been 532 days since Giants Stadium’s successor hosted a full-fledged professional football game in front of paying customers. That streak, begun shortly after an XFL contest between the New York Guardians and the Los Angeles Wildcats, finally snaps on Saturday, as the New York Jets and Giants resume their preseason series after a year off (7:30 p.m. ET, WNBC).

The Jets and Giants have staged an annual late summer showdown since 1969, when the former began its Super Bowl defense with a 37-14 triumph at the Yale Bowl. Since the teams began sharing the swamps of the Meadowlands (when the Jets moved in from Shea Stadium in 1984), the game has become a North Jersey tradition, a different kind of fireworks as days slowly get shorter. It’s a night of playful bragging rights, a union of metropolitan football. Upon the naming rights takeover of MetLife, known for featuring the Charlie Brown gang in its advertising, the contest became known as the “Snoopy Bowl”, complete with a beagle-branded winner’s trophy. Fans have kept the name alive in an unofficial capacity despite MetLife severing its ties with the Peanuts franchise.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

For a few precious hours, it’s a metropolitan Super Bowl decided by those more likely destined for the practice squad than for The Big Game itself.

“Since the game doesn’t count, the parking lot always had kind of a party atmosphere,” Kenny Watkins III of Woodland Park, NJ and a season-ticket holder at Giants Stadium said of the game. “People in blue and green are tailgating, having fun, playing music, usually there’s a band set up somewhere. It’s more like a concert atmosphere than a football game.”

By now, no one needs to elaborate as to why the series was interrupted. The COVID-19 health crisis shut down many summer traditions across the tri-state area and the nation as a whole, including the NFL preseason and the plethora of regional matchups that come with it. Few mourned the loss of the exhibition slate…preseason football is often seen as a chore in even the best of times…but regular season games played in empty stadiums took on an eerie feeling, even if they were done in the interest of public health. The Jets and Giants were a couple of the 14 teams that played their entire 2020 home slate in an empty stadium.

But welcome normalcy has finally started to emerge from the pandemic, primarily thanks to vaccination efforts. Caution is still in place due to COVID’s Delta variant but football fans have eagerly made their way back into stadiums as the first official week of preseason action continues. 

In some ways, the true value of Saturday’s game is found not on the field, but rather the stands, which is set to host a de facto family reunition of thousands.

“Saturday is going to be special even though it’s just a preseason game,” Peter Schwartz of Long Island told ESM. “It’s appropriate that both sets of fans get to be at the first game with fans because this area has been through so much over the last 18 months.”

“It’s been awesome to have fans back,” Arizona defender J.J. Watt said during an in-game interview with KPNX during the Cardinals’ preseason opener against Dallas on Friday night. “It’s been awesome to have fans back in the building. After last season, everybody playing in empty stadiums, it’s an incredible feeling to have these fans back, to have the energy, to have the excitement.”

A few necessary adjustments might still have to be made. To reduce touchpoints, for example, MetLife Stadium has transitioned to cash-free transactions at all concession and retail outlets. But it’s well worth it to get back in the New York football groove.

“I think you should just be courteous to those around you, making sure that you’re not doing anything too obnoxious or breaking any of the COVID precautions in place,” Joe Gucciardo of Howard Beach said of the precautions. “I think having the Snoopy Bowl be the first game back is somewhat bittersweet. It’s fun, you can go with a buddy who likes the other tri-State team and jaw at each other all night.”

Both teams have offered sneak previews of their respective returns to fan-filled stadiums as their respective training camp proceedings continued. The Jets first hosted the Green & White Scrimmage last Saturday night while the Giants capped off their Fan Fest with a public practice on Wednesday night.

(Photo by Alan Schaefer/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Intrasquad scrimmages, however, don’t replace the feeling of showcasing your gridiron stuff against another opponent, especially one you’re forced to share the country’s largest media market with. Staten Island native and Jets fan John Maleka is looking forward to seeing his team showcase their young talent in a MetLife Stadium adorned in blue, as Saturday’s tilt is a designated Giants home game. Fellow attendee and Montville resident Dave Strum anticipates a “sea of green and blue”, which he labels a welcome change from his last East Rutherford excursion.

Strum, after all, was at the Jets’ last contest held in front of fans, a 16-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in December 2019. Alas, many attendees went home unhappy: black and yellow outranked green on that temperate afternoon, which was completely understandable with the Steelers’ playoff implications and the nine-loss Jets’ lack thereof entering what was each

Jets head coach Robert Saleh isn’t so much interested in New York bragging rights, but can’t wait to see his group go up against another…it just so happens it’ll come against Joe Judge’s gang.

“I think every NFL team is ready to see somebody else,” Saleh said this week, per notes from the Jets. “We’re sick of each other, we’re sick of seeing the same defense, we’re sick of seeing the same offense. They’re ready to see a different color and they’re ready to go against different schemes and be challenged in different ways. It’s going to be fun, I’m excited for the group.”

Lately, bragging rights amongst each other in a meaningless summer exhibition have the only thing Jets and Giants fans have had to celebrate. Neither team has made a playoff appearance since the end of the 2016 season. The 10th anniversary celebration of the Giants’ Super Bowl XLVI triumph comes with the bittersweet reminder that the upset win over New England is the metropolitan area’s most recent NFL postseason win.

But the redemptive naivety of the NFL preseason is that everyone goes in undefeated and undeterred. Win the game, and happy times are ahead. Losses can be blamed and excused on the idea that it’s “only preseason”.

While the Giants are holding most of their premier talents out of Saturday’s game, the Jets are set to put on a youthful showcase. Even the most stubborn Gang Green hater can admit that there is legitimate potential behind this team, headlined by the arrival of new franchise quarterback Zach Wilson.

The Jets spent this offseason doing what they could to make sure his NFL transition was as seamless as possible, bringing in receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole, who will likely see some time on Saturday. Draft choices Alijah Vera-Tucker and Elijah Moore aren’t expected to partake, but have nonetheless offered optimism. The hire of Saleh has also received universal acclaim.

“There’s a whole new vibe to this team from the front office to the new quarterback and the new ‘toys’ sprinkled throughout the offense and defense,” Meleka said. “It feels like the Jets fans have more to look forward to in this game, especially since Wilson is slated for the first quarter while (Giants quarterback Daniel Jones) is out. More specifically, the new coaching staff and the new schemes on both sides of the ball finally give these Jets players an opportunity to make a name for themselves and begin their journey to solidifying a spot on the 53-man roster.”

“So far, the atmosphere around the Jets has been nothing but excitement for the future of the franchise with Coach Saleh and all their young studs: Moore, Wilson, and (linebacker Hamsah) Nasirildeen,” Strum added. “Jets Nation will definitely be fired up for some preseason action against the local rival team.”

Time will tell if more restrictions lay on the road ahead as the Delta variant remains stubborn. But for the time being, provided that fans remain vigilant and use their best judgment, it’s fine to view Saturday’s game at its surface: a welcome back to a frivolous, if not cherished, Garden State tradition, a landmark in the battle against the hated pandemic.

“It is definitely fitting that football returns to New Jersey in Jets vs. Giants fashion. Although a meaningless game to some, this game, gives me a little bit of hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight and will be a milestone for how far we have come from the beginning of the pandemic until now.” Strum said. “Although I’m a little nervous with the new Delta variant going around, I am definitely excited to feel the atmosphere of thousands of screaming fans cheering on their team, the smell of food cooking on the grill before the game, some J-E-T-S chants with fellow Jets fans in the parking lot.”

True to football form, however, he’s not letting a joint celebration get in the way of a little good, old-fashion metropolitan smack talk.

“I might have to thank some of them for letting Elijah Moore fall to us in the second round.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

There’s a “pretty good” chance that MetLife Stadium is fully open in 2021

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was optimistic about capacity crowds returning to MetLife Stadium for New York Jets and Giants games.

New Jersey’s woebegone NFL squads have made some improvements this offseason and spectators may be able to witness the transformation in person.

In video provided by NJ.com, Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday that the “prospects are pretty good” when it comes to fans filling MetLife Stadium for the 2021 NFL season. The East Rutherford home of the New York Giants and Jets was one of 11 NFL stadiums that did not admit fans at any point last season.

“I’d say the prospects are pretty good,” Murphy said about the possibility in a briefing in Trenton, declaring that filling all 82,500 seats will be dependent on the promising declining numbers in regards to the ongoing health crisis. COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey are at their lowest point since October. Social distancing at such games would by recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.

MetLife Stadium has not hosted a sporting event with fans since February 2020, when just over 12,000 attendees watched the XFL tilt between the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats. Its next scheduled event is a Guns N’ Roses concert on August 5. New Jersey’s outdoor venues can open to 50 percent capacity on Friday.

“If we blow through our objectives, there’s a lot higher likelihood the Jets and Giants can sell more tickets,” Murphy said.

The 2021 NFL schedule will be released on Wednesday night, with the season expected to begin on Thursday, September 9 with a game presumably hosted by the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tom Brady and Bucs will make a stop at MetLife to play the Jets later this season, as will the Jacksonville Jaguars, the latter game presumably setting up a matchup between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the first players chosen in the 2021 NFL Draft. Among the Giants’ most anticipated home matchups is their yearly divisional tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit MetLife Stadium twice this year (taking on the Jets as part of the NFL’s addition of a new game to the schedule).

As vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, fans are returning to outdoor venues in larger numbers. MLB’s Atlanta Braves opened to full capacity on May 7 in Georgia, while NASCAR events at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, and Kansas Speedway will likewise be run in front of full crowds.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags