COVID-19 hits Week 17 as the NFL updates protocols

Source: Robert Scheer/IndyStar/USA Today Network

The Las Vegas Raiders now have 13 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including nine defensive players. The Raiders’ Week 17 opponent, the Indianapolis Colts, are also dealing with an outbreak of their own, with nine players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including QB Carson Wentz.

Due to the ongoing outbreaks and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NFL and NFLPA have agreed to update their COVID-19 protocols. As the teams navigate what this means for them, here’s how COVID-19 might affect the Raiders’ Week 17 game.

Updated Protocols

The league has agreed to shorten the required quarantine period for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. Players that are asymptomatic are now required to self-isolate for five days, half of the original 10-day requirement.

Players were previously required to present two negative tests before returning to their teams. Now those guidelines have gone away completely. As long as players are symptom-free and have been cleared by a team doctor, they are welcome back to their teams five days after their positive test.

Who does this impact?

League-wide, there have been more teams affected by COVID-19 outbreaks than not. This is the second team the Raiders have faced in three weeks that is dealing with an outbreak affecting almost half of their starting players. Now, the Raiders are facing an outbreak of their own.

11 of the 13 players on the Raiders’ COVID-19 list have been there since Monday or before. This means that nearly all of them are eligible to return before Sunday’s matchup. Because the Raiders are 100% vaccinated, it is more likely their players are experiencing mild symptoms that may ease up before they have completed their five-day isolation.

Among the Raiders on the reserve/COVID-19 list is TE Darren Waller, confirmed by interim head coach Rich Bisaccia on Wednesday.

“As of right now Darren Waller is in the COVID protocol,” Bisaccia said. “We’ll know more about that as the week goes on.”

If any of the Raiders players are still experiencing symptoms, they will remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list until their symptoms subside, potentially requiring them to miss Sunday’s matchup.

The Indianapolis Colts are one of the least vaccinated teams against COVID-19 in the NFL. Because of this, players like QB Carson Wentz and LB Darius Leonard may be required to miss more time due to their potential for more severe and long-lasting symptoms.

Things to Look Out For

The Colts placed many of the players on the reserve/COVID-19 list before their Week 16 matchup, meaning many of them are eligible to return soon. Look for them to begin activating players, with final activations required by Sunday morning.

The Raiders are eligible to get many of their players back on Saturday morning. Keep an eye out to see who cleared protocols and who will miss Sunday’s matchup.

Both teams have major playoff implications on the line this week as the Colts currently hold the 5th seed in the AFC with a 9-6 record. The Raiders stand in 9th place in the AFC at 8-7.

A win or loss could be season-defining for both teams, and COVID-19 will be a major factor in determining the who will be available for this pivotal matchup in the NFL.

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