NFL coaches are taking precautions beyond the league’s COVID-19 protocols to ensure players are available for games.
Several teams separate shifts, hold virtual meetings and do whatever it takes to prevent outbreaks of the virus. Green Bay, Washington, Baltimore, Cleveland, Chicago and New Orleans have played without starting quarterbacks due to COVID-19. Other key players have also missed important games in recent weeks.
The league and the NFL Players Association revised protocols on Tuesday, reducing the isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days instead of 10.
The league has also put in place restrictions on which players eat together, a limited number of occupants in the weight room to 15, and requires all players and staff to wear masks inside the club’s facilities. team.
As teams battle for places and position in the playoffs, the virus forces them to face another opponent.
The San Francisco 49ers (8-7) were among the teams that chose to meet virtually on Wednesday.
“Our team, we don’t all prefer Zoom,” said Niners coach Kyle Shanahan. “People know what’s at stake with the odds that we lose guys for these games, so it wasn’t a difficult issue at all to go to Zoom.”
The Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) had quarterbacks and specialists who met virtually, but other groups of positions met in person.
“We’re going to do some things, in terms of preparing young players, that are a little bit unique and different,” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “I’m not going to be sharing this here right now for competitive advantages, but we’re doing some things to make sure that if a guy gets into the action late, he’s going to be ready to go even more than he would be.” . have in the past.
The league even encourages fully vaccinated staff and players to avoid public spaces, including restaurants, bars and social gatherings. It is not a mandate, but it is another additional step that some team leaders will point out.
“I really think there is a time when as a leader you want to try to keep things together as much as you can,” said Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. “You understand that you have a group full of grown men making decisions of grown men, but I definitely encourage everyone to stay safe and be responsible and take care in this matter. You can live. with and be okay if you knew you were taking precautions and doing all you could. ”
The Minnesota Vikings (7-8) recovered running back Dalvin Cook from the COVID-19 roster on Wednesday after missing a loss to the Rams.
“We stay six feet from each other, in larger meeting rooms and keeping our masks on,” said Cook, who is not vaccinated. “Stay away from each other, basically. I have to talk from a distance these days. Stuff like that. Doing the right things to keep our team in the right position over the next two weeks. “
Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay is on a 90-day trial vacation, but the Packers (12-3) currently have 15 players on the reserve / COVID-19 roster, including two guys from the practice squad. The most notable are punter Corey Bojorquez, tight end Marcedes Lewis and cornerback Kevin King.
“We’re lucky enough to have a facility that can accommodate us just in terms of space to make sure everyone is dispersed,” said coach Matt LaFleur. “I think our guys are doing a good job wearing their masks. … We will do more virtual meetings after practice, potentially. We kind of left it up to the room for positions as to how they would like to do it. “
Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians told the team to assistant Harold Goodwin after he tested positive on Tuesday. The Buccaneers (11-4) placed cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting on the COVID-19 roster on Tuesday.
“I had to remind the guys to disperse, to get away from each other, just because it’s a dangerous time right now, not just for us as players but for the nation, for the world for this. party, ”Goodwin said. “We just have to be smart about it. It’s here. We all know it’s here and we just have to be aware of what we’re doing, shake hands, wash our hands, all kinds of things. Just be smart.
The Denver Broncos, who started a wide receiver at quarterback last season due to COVID-19, are isolating training team QB Anthony Gordon and holding virtual meetings.
The Buffalo Bills (9-6) have been holding virtual meetings for the past few weeks and coach Sean McDermott has organized most of the training outdoors, where players are considered less likely to transmit the virus.
“We’ve taken as many precautions as you can take,” McDermott said.
The Tennessee Titans (10-5) have protected QB practice team Kevin Hogan but are not quarantining the other quarterbacks. They have 11 players in total on the COVID-19 roster.
“We have plenty of space now,” said coach Mike Vrabel. “I mean, we have the bubble. It’s a great set in there. We have a huge team meeting room where you only have a few people. So we’re very concerned with making sure everyone is more than enough apart.
While the league and the players’ union have worked together to update protocols to ensure the season runs smoothly, teams know that taking extra action helps even if it’s not optimal.
“I think with COVID and all you need to do is what you need to do regarding protocols,” Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. “But I think as a soccer team we love being together. We love being in the locker room, talking to each other, messing around, all that good stuff, and it’s just hard to do that on Zoom. delay really makes things a little awkward.
AP Pro Football writers Teresa M. Walker, Dave Campbell, Arnie Stapleton, Schuyler Dixon and AP Sports writers Steve Megargee and John Wawrow contributed.
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