Just hours before Week 6 of the NFL season is set to kick-off, a wave of players landed on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday with outbreaks popping up across the NFL.
The NFL created the reserve/COVID-19 list this summer to allow teams to place players who tested positive for the coronavirus or came in close contact with a carrier of the virus on a designated list. On Saturday, multiple teams were busy placing starters and depth players on the reserve list.
The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Saturday morning that one of the players on the practice squad tested positive for COVID-19, with the results coming in that morning. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, the team took immediate action in a move that dealt a severe blow to their depth.
Jacksonville closed its facility for the day, requiring players and coaches to work from home before Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. Because the Week 6 matchup is at home, there was no risk of the virus potentially spreading on a team flight.
In the largest team transaction during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jaguars placed 12 practice squad players and an exempt player on the reserve list.
The NFL expanded to 16-man practice squads this season, in an effort to provide teams with more depth to call upon if a player on their roster tested positive for the coronavirus. However, with test results for those players now pending as they stay in isolation, Jacksonville will essentially be without a practice squad for the next few days.
Due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks, the NFL was forced to create enhanced protocols. Beginning in Week 6, any person who is deemed to be a “high risk” close contact with someone who tests positive must be quarantined for five days. Given players on the practice squad spend a lot of time together, this resulted in the massive move.
Before Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, which was postponed in Week 5 due to the team’s second outbreak, the Patriots placed three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
New England placed running back Sony Michel, starting guard Shaq Mason and rotational defensive end Derek Rivers on their reserve list. The team’s decision came a day after a player tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the organization to cancel practice.
Cam Newton was the first player on the roster to test positive for COVID-19, with the result coming one day before the Patriots played the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. The NFL moved the game from Sunday to Monday, causing frustration from players. A few days after the game, cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive. New England’s Week 5 game was rescheduled for Monday and later postponed until Week 6 after a third player contracted the virus a day before the game.
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Michel has tested positive for COVID-19. While Mason and Rivers have tested negative, New England is being cautious.
The NFL still intends for the Patriots and Broncos to play on Sunday, despite the Patriots’ outbreak and Broncos running backs coach Curtis Modkins testing positive.
Until Week 6, the Ravens have seemingly been fortunate to avoid any major problems. However, that changed on Saturday when defensive tackle Brandon Williams landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, Williams came in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. He did not test positive and the person reportedly isn’t affiliated with the team, but the Ravens are exercising caution. Williams won’t be available for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. It will be a significant blow for Baltimore’s run defense in Week 6.
Atlanta’s issues started in Week 3, when it placed rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He was the first NFL player to miss a game due to COVID-19, but the Falcons still played through their regular-season schedule for the next few weeks.
However, things have taken an unfortunate turn this week. After fellow rookie Marlon Davidson tested positive for COVID-19, the Falcons placed their defensive tackle on the reserve list. A few days later, a staffer also tested positive for the coronavirus and the team closed its facility.
After being cleared to return on Friday, things unraveled even further. Atlanta placed defensive end John Cominsky on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. In addition, defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi and assistant Jeff Simpson weren’t allowed to travel with the team to Minnesota for the contest against the Vikings.
As with every other Week 6 game, the Falcons are scheduled to play on Sunday. Of course, things could change quickly on Sunday morning if additional players test positive for COVID-19.