As much as it might like to, the NFL is not existing in a vacuum shielded from the rest of the country. As a result, coronavirus cases going up in the United States also leads to them going up in the league: more than 70 players had to be sent to the COVID-19 list the last two days, with more expected to join them in the near future.
Even with vaccines now available, the pandemic continues to have an impact on the NFL and its teams. Among them are the New England Patriots, who currently have two players on reserve/COVID-19.
Earlier this week, team captain Devin McCourty spoke to reporters about what is a challenging situation for the Patriots and the rest of the league alike.
“I always say we can’t think because we play in the NFL and we want to be healthy that we’re going to shield ourselves and not get Covid,” McCourty said on Tuesday. “You try to tell guys to be smart and do different things, but it’s the realization, numbers are climbing, let’s stay inside and do different things. But it’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds. ...
“I don’t know if the NFL will put us back into kind of how we were last year. But for us as a team, we’ve been pretty safe with it so far and how we handled ourselves. Coming off a bye week and this time of the year with the holidays — all those different things being a factor — we just try to tell everyone, ‘Think about the team whatever you do, whatever decision you make. Try to think about how it will impact the team and go from there.’”
While not experiencing a wide-spread outbreak so far this year, the Patriots have encountered COVID-19 numerous times this season. Just recently, three players tested positive.
While safety Kyle Dugger returned to the active roster on Tuesday, running back J.J. Taylor and tight end Dalton Keene remain on the coronavirus reserve list as of Wednesday morning. They are just the latest Patriots to get in touch with either the virus or the league’s protocols over the last few months — a group that includes offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu, quarterback Cam Newton, and assistant coach Cole Popovich.
In response to rising numbers all over the country and within the league, the NFL recently informed its clubs about updated immunity requirements. Staffers classified as Tier 1 and Tier 2 — including, among others, coaches, athletic trainers and general managers — need to receive their booster shots by Dec. 27 or lose privileges.