It’s been a busy week around the league for the COVID-19 virus with over 100 players added to reserve lists on Monday alone. The Packers were not untouched by the virus and added several players of their own this week to a growing list of 16 on the reserve/covid list.
The NFL and NFL Players Association came to agreement earlier this week on new covid protocols based off of the CDC’s updated quarantine guidelines. Shortening the quarantine period for players (regardless of vaccination status) from 10 days to 5 days.
This is very significant because you have to think a playoff covid outbreak strikes more fear into an NFL front office than any offense or defense.
Shortening the quarantine period and relaxing the qualifications a bit could help bring some players back in time to suit up for a game in the event of a covid outbreak.
Obviously, the health and wellness of players and their families is what’s most important with the game of football taking a back seat. It’s been documented that many of the cases NFL players have had have NOT been asymptomatic, and in rare cases have been dire. I’m operating under the assumption that the majority of these young, world class athletes will not have significant complications.
That being said, the 2021 NFL playoffs will undoubtedly have numerous covid-related storylines where key players are forced to miss time due to the virus.
Let’s take a look at which players/position groups on the Packers have already had covid-19 and are more-or-less “safe” for the playoffs, and which could still be affected by the virus.
Who’s Had It
Obviously the first name to come to mind is Aaron Rodgers, whose covid case produced the most notoriety in the sports stratosphere.
That’s a topic that’s been beaten to death, but the upshot is that the Packers aren’t going anywhere without Rodgers and short of toe amputation he won’t be missing any time, at least not on the covid list, as he isn’t even eligible for testing until after the Super Bowl.
Jordan Love & Kurt Benkert have also had covid-19 so in the event that Rodgers is forced to miss time with injury, the preferred depth chart is in place.
Marques Valdez-Scantling was activated from the covid list yesterday, so he’ll be around for the remainder of the season.
Davante Adams missed the Cardinals game on the covid list, he is eligible for testing around the time of the Super Bowl. Second to Rodgers, not a guy you want to be missing come playoff time…or ever
After Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill was quoted as saying he was “exhausted” in last week’s matchup against the Steelers after being activated from the covid list at the eleventh hour, it’s fair to say that even if players are active for the game they could be operating at well below 100%.
Corey Bojorquez was added to the list yesterday, obviously specialists are paramount because there aren’t good alternatives readily available.
One regular season week with a fill-in punter is doable, but you don’t want to be scouring the waiver wire during the playoffs. Maybe the Packers will eschew punting all together this week?
Mason Crosby had covid in July of 2020 so in theory he could contract the virus again but the hope is that some combination of vaccination/boosting and immunity will prevent that. Yes Mason has had his struggles, but there is still no one else I’d rather have booting it come playoff time.
AJ Dillon had covid-19 last season, so it is possible that he could miss time with it again but much like Mason Crosby the hope is that he has been vaccinated/boosted and has some natural immunity.
Joe Barry is a name that I believe is critical to the playoff push, who also has already had covid. He’s had ups and downs this season but I think it’s important that he is on the sideline to call the defense and make adjustments.
Kenny Clark just came off the covid list last week before the game and mentioned that he thought it affected his conditioning. It’s comforting to know that the heart of the defense won’t be missing any time on the covid list for the playoffs.
De’Vondre Campbell has also already been through the covid ringer. While he has cooled off just a tad in recent weeks, Campbell is obviously critical to the middle of the defense if the Packers want to make noise in the playoffs.
Henry Black, Oren Burks, Kevin King, Kingsley Keke, Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, Ben Braden, Marcedes Lewis, Amari Rodgers. All starters/key reserves who either currently have covid or who’ve had it this season.
Who Hasn’t Had It
After Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, the person I’m most concerned about losing isn’t a player…it’s head coach Matt LaFleur
Can the Packers win without LaFleur? Yes. But I’m not confident about it.
LaFleur has been on fire with game planning the majority of this season and I don’t think having Nathaniel Hackett calling the plays during a playoff game offers the same competitive advantage.
It’s the intangibles of having your coach on the sideline, leading you through battle that matters when the game is on the line. Protect him at all costs!
AJ Dillon had covid during last season and he missed more than five weeks with the lingering effects. Much like Mason Crosby you have to hope that Dillon has retained some form of immunity and will not reacquire the virus. Fingers crossed.
Aaron Jones has not, to my knowledge, had covid and obviously he’s a guy that you need to have in the huddle going forward.
Jones is special, but what’s truly special is the thunder/lightning combo of Jones & Dillon together.
The whole of the offensive line has been relatively unscathed by covid, but ravaged by injuries. Only Cole Van Lanen and Ben Braden had contracted covid out of the offensive line group.
The o-line depth is perilously thin and this is a real area of concern come playoff time with covid rampant.
Obviously Yosh Nijman, Jon Runyan, Lucas Patrick, Royce Newman and Dennis Kelly have done a remarkable job, but they are the depth…
Adam Stenavich as well has to be commended for getting that group ready to do battle but at some point you can’t expect him to continue to work miracles toward the bottom of the depth chart/practice squad if there were to be a covid outbreak in that group.
Much like the O-line group, the DB room hasn’t spent much time on the shelf with covid.
Currently, Henry Black and Kevin King are on the reserve list but the rest of the group at least at the starter/key reserve level haven’t had the virus.
Luckily there is depth in the Packers secondary, if one key player acquires the virus it’s not a coffin nail but a widespread outbreak could break the delicate defensive balance.
Luckily, Eric Stokes can’t catch so he won’t get it (it’s a joke, don’t shoot!)
And Darnell Savage may catch it but it’ll be overturned!
It also appears that Jaire Alexander will suit up at some point, providing much needed depth for the overall defense, and also in the defense against covid-19 should something happen.
Lastly, Rasul Douglas had covid during his 2020 tenure with the Carolina Panthers…Douglas has quickly become a guy that needs to be on the field at all times and is going to be a key piece to a deep 2021 playoff run.
Hopefully in 2022 we can get back to dissecting offenses and defenses instead of worrying about who has covid, who had it and how it could negatively affect the game and people we love.
Cheers to a happy and healthy new year!
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.