COVID-19 issues continue in NFL; Colts, Panthers hit hard

Sports News

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule talks with quarterback Sam Darnold during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — To Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich, it was just a matter of time before his team would be adding a few players to the NFL’s COVID-19 list.

The Colts placed safety Jahleel Addae, cornerback T.J. Carrie, linebacker Malik Jefferson, running back Marlon Mack and tackle Braden Smith on the list Monday. Smith has been a key member of the offensive line that has helped Jonathan Taylor lead the league in rushing. Cornerback Chris Wilcox went on the practice squad COVID-19 list.

“It’s interesting that since we had more unvaxxed players than the average around the league that we were one of the last teams to (test) positive,” Reich said. “You kind of feel like it’s going to catch up with you at some point just because the virus is so rampant. But this is what you prepare for, hitting adversity you don’t expect, although this is something we probably could have expected to hit us at some point.”

As for changes in operations this week, Reich said: “There are going to be some elements that are virtual this week. It could be all meetings are virtual and guys just come in for practice.”

The NFL mandated that all media covering playoff teams and games, and the Super Bowl, must have received a COVID-19 booster by Jan. 12. Exceptions are for:

— An individual who is not eligible for a booster pursuant to the CDC definition;

— An individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days;

— An individual who received monoclonal antibodies within the immediately preceding 90 days.

Also:

— The Carolina Panthers sent all of their players home from Bank of America Stadium after six more players tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday.

That brings the total number of Carolina players on the COVID-19 list to 13.

Defensive end Brian Burns, linebacker Shaq Thompson, defensive end Marquis Haynes, defensive tackle Phil Hoskins, center Matt Paradis and defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon all tested positive on Monday. Paradis and Nixon were already on injured reserve.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said the decision to send players home was made “to stem the tide” and get things under control. The team will conduct its meetings virtually until then, and Rhule is hoping to have players back in the building for practice on Wednesday.

The Panthers lost 32-6 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and have been eliminated from playoff contention. They visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

— The Jacksonville Jaguars placed 10 players on the COVID-19 list Monday, including five defensive linemen and two starting offensive linemen.

Because left guard Andrew Norwell is unvaccinated, he will be out at least 10 days under NFL protocols and will miss Sunday’s game at New England. The other nine players are vaccinated and have a chance to play against the Patriots.

The Jaguars already ruled out pass rusher Josh Allen, who also is unvaccinated and won’t be cleared in time to play. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday along with receiver Laviska Shenault and right guard Ben Bartch.

— The Tennessee Titans got left guard Rodger Saffold and rookie defensive back Elijah Molden back from the COVID-19 list. They still have two other offensive linemen still on the list, and they also put four players — including three starters — on the list, including outside linebacker Bud Dupree, wide receiver Julio Jones, defensive back Buster Skrine and receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. They also put cornerback Caleb Farley, who’s on injured reserve, on the list.

Tennessee can clinch the AFC South for a second straight year with one victory or an Indianapolis loss. The Titans host Miami on Sunday.

— The Cleveland Browns, who have been hit as hard as any team by COVID-19 the past few weeks, activated eight players, including defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and running back Kareem Hunt.

Clowney has missed the past two games — both losses — and his return will help a pass rush that hasn’t been the same without him. Starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. is also back. He’s been replaced the last two games by left guard Joel Bitoni, who can slide back to his usual spot.

— The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hard hit by injuries on offense, put star wideout Mike Evans on the COVID-19 list, but activated wide receiver Breshad Perriman from it. Evans missed Sunday’s game with an injury. Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver also went on the list.

— The Green Bay Packers placed G Ben Braden, LB Tipa Galeai, WR Amari Rodgers and LB Ty Summers on the list, and placed defensive lineman RJ McIntosh on the practice squad COVID-19 list.

— The Houston Texans added RB David Johnson, LB Neville Hewitt and practice squad fullback Paul Quessenberry to the list.

— The Cincinnati Bengals placed backup quarterback Brandon Allen and already-injured cornerback/kick returner Darius Phillips on the list. Phillips (shoulder), who was the Bengals’ primary kick returner, has been on injured reserve since Dec. 9.

Allen has been the No. 2 quarterback behind starter Joe Burrow. The team will likely have to add a quarterback to the roster.

Starting defensive tackle D.J. Reader missed last Sunday’s game after going on the COVID-19 list on Dec. 20, the same day that starting cornerback Chidobe Awuzie came off it.

Cincinnati hosts Kansas City on Sunday.

— The San Francisco 49ers placed punter Mitch Wishnowsky on COVID-19 list.

— The Las Vegas Raiders added CB Casey Hayward, LB Cory Littleton, LB Patrick Onwuasor, LB Denzel Perryman, DT Darius Philon and LB K.J. Wright to the list.

— The Seahawks added defensive end L.J. Collier to the list. Collier played 25 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Bears. Seattle has six players from the 53-man roster on the virus list.

— Minnesota placed guard Olisaemeka Udoh on the list.

— Denver added starting defensive lineman Mike Purcell and outside linebacker Andre Mintze to the list.

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