On Sunday, every Denver Broncos quarterback had either tested positive for COVID-19 or had a close contact with someone who had tested positive. With all of them unavailable for their game against the New Orleans Saints, the Broncos ended up playing practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton at quarterback.
Hinton completed just one pass for 13 yards on nine attempts in a 31-3 loss.
As Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid met with the media on Wednesday, the Baltimore Ravens were preparing to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a crucial AFC North game — and would be doing so without reigning NFL MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, who was placed on the team’s reserve/COVID list on Friday. Instead, veteran Robert Griffin III would be taking snaps for the Ravens.
So it was natural that the first question posed to Reid was whether these kinds of circumstances were making him change how he handles his quarterbacks during the coronavirus pandemic.
“They’ve got a good-sized room that they can be in,” Reid replied, “where they can have that separation — and plus some — and those guys are flawless about wearing their masks. They keep those things on relentlessly. That becomes important also.”
Reid had actually begun his response by referring to the electronic devices that he, his staff and players are all required to wear under NFL coronavirus protocols. We already knew that these devices track where each person is at every moment — so that if an individual in the facility tests positive, those who have been around them for any period of time can be identified — but what we didn’t know was these devices have lights that blink when individuals are closer than six feet from one another.
“These monitors end up being real important for us,” explained Reid. “We make sure that we keep them from blinking. We don’t want them to blink at all.”
And according to quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ description of the quarterback meeting room, that isn’t likely to happen in there.
“There are four desks — and then there’s one desk that’s like the main one for the coach to sit at,” Mahomes explained. “We have, like, five spots. That works when it’s just the quarterbacks and coach (Mike) Kafka, but obviously when other people come in, we have to send people out.”
Send people out?
“There’s only a certain number of guys that can be in that room together,” continued Mahomes, “[so] that we have the proper amount of distance between each other. And then whenever coach Reid or coach (Eric) Bieniemy come in there for some of our meetings, we’ll send people out.”
But Mahomes also pointed out that just as they have been doing since this curious NFL season began, those that have left the room could continue to participate in the meeting virtually.
“They’ll still be part of the virtual part of the experience, but it won’t be where it’s too congested in a room,” noted Mahomes. “But even with that, we still wear our masks and do all that different type of stuff. It’s something you have to stay on top of.”
Mahomes went on to say that for him, paying attention to the protocols was just as important when he’s away from the team facility.
“I have Brittany (Mahomes’ fiance) at home — who is pregnant and high risk — so I try to stay [as] on top as possible.”
So far, in this crazy season, there has been every indication that the Chiefs have taken the pandemic extremely seriously. And while they have had a small number of players and staff test positive — and a few more who have spent short periods on the reserve/COVID list in what have appeared to be precautionary moves, their diligence has paid off to this point; there have been no serious outbreaks on the team.
But Reid — who keeps his third quarterback Matt Moore on the practice squad instead of the active roster — said that if he has to, he’s prepared to send a non-quarterback into the game.
“We’ve got guys that we work in as the third quarterback on game day,” he revealed. “I’m not going to put [their names] out there, but we have a couple of guys that we work every week.”
But even while discussing such a serious subject, Reid couldn’t resist a little gibe.
“I might be calling you,” he told ESPN reporter Adam Teicher. “You know... take charge.”
In any other season, we’d be noting that the reporters all laughed at Reid’s playful response to Teicher, who’s been covering the team for decades. But in Zoom calls with the press, reporters’ microphones are turned off unless they’re asking a question; Reid’s dry humor can find no appreciative audience.
It’s just another thing we miss in the season of coronavirus.