On Wednesday, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed that his entire active roster had passed through the COVID-19 protocol.
To be clear, that means that linebacker Nick Bolton, kicker Harrison Butker, cornerback Rashad Fenton, tight end Travis Kelce, offensive lineman Lucas Niang, punter Tommy Townsend and safety Armani Watts have all cleared the protocol and are thus off the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Reid assured that they all were on the field on Wednesday, as the Chiefs began preparing for the Cincinnati Bengals. Following guidance from the CDC, the NFL drastically altered its COVID-19 rules on Tuesday to allow for a faster player return.
With these changes in status, the Chiefs currently have 52 players on their active roster, plus 14 players on their practice squad. Reid did not address the status of practice squad linebacker Darius Harris and offensive lineman Mike Remmers. They have also been on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list — but once Remmers clears, he will return to injured reserve.
UPDATE 4:15 p.m. According to Wednesday’s NFL transactions report, the Chiefs activated Harris to the practice squad from the Reserve/COVID-19 list — pushing the total of practic squad players to 15. The team also designated running back Jerick McKinnon for return from injured reserve, opening a 21-day window for him to be activated to the roster. Remmers remains on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is reportedly "week-to-week" with a shoulder injury, was the only Chiefs player to miss practice. Reid added safety Tyrann Mathieu "feels great" after his quad contusion.
Throughout the outbreak that lasted two weeks, the Chiefs found ways to win two key games and keep their eight-game win streak alive, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers on Week 16's Thursday Night Football and later a Week 17 Sunday game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Defensive tackle Chris Jones missed Thursday night before returning Sunday. In limited snaps, Jones had three tackles.
"It's a challenging situation," said Jones. "You're forced to miss so many days, and you come back, and you try to be in a rhythm. It kind of takes you out of your rhythm, so you got to find that balance right there, and you also got to say in tune with the game and what's going on — watching film, staying in tune with the new calls that's being presented week in and week out, and try to be relevant while you're quarantining. It was a challenge itself, and also trying to stay in shape. You don't really have the strength, the endurance that you had before, and you try to find that balance, and I'm still trying to find that balance now."
Kelce, who missed the game against the Steelers, practiced for the first time in nine days on Wednesday. The last time he took the field, he scored the 36-yard game-winning touchdown in Los Angeles.
"He was excited," said quarterback Patrick Mahomes of Kelce. "He was annoyed that he couldn't be back in the building. Even the day after, when we came back, and we really had an off day, the guys come in to watch film, and he couldn't be in the building, he was still annoyed about it. He loves this game, and he loves being out there with the guys and being able to play, so it crushed him not being able to play with us."
It sounds like Kelce, coming off a 191-yard game, will be hungry as he makes his return to the lineup in Cincinnati, which also happens to be the place he played college football. In addition, the Bengals are projecting to be without a key linebacker in Germaine Pratt.
No. 87 is worth watching, but so is this team as a whole. Unfazed and unbeaten by an outbreak, the Chiefs are heading to Cincinnati as healthy as they have been in weeks.