- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2021

When the NFL pushed back the Washington Football Team’s game against Philadelphia, coach Ron Rivera said there was “some” optimism that the extra two days would allow for more players to clear COVID-19 protocols.

However, on Monday, Washington’s COVID-19 situation got worse, not better.

As of Monday afternoon, the number of Washington players in protocols remained at 16, and quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen weren’t able to come off the COVID-19 list. All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff was added to the list and is likely to miss Tuesday’s game. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, seven assistant coaches were placed in protocols.

In addition to Heinicke and Scherff, three other players who were set to start — center Tyler Larsen, cornerback Kendall Fuller and safety Kam Curl — remain on the list and won’t play Tuesday unless they are asymptomatic and receive two negative tests. Heinicke and Allen are still beholden to their nasal swabs. Neither tested out by Monday afternoon. If neither signal caller can test negative by Tuesday morning, Washington’s quarterback will either be Kyle Shurmur, who has never taken an NFL snap, or Garrett Gilbert, who the team signed off New England’s practice squad on Friday.

Scherff, Washington’s first-round pick in 2015, has started in nine games at right guard this season and is one of the team’s top offensive linemen. He was an All-Pro in 2020 and has made four Pro Bowls. Saahdiq Charles, who has two career starts, or Jamil Douglas, who the team signed off Buffalo’s practice squad last week, could step in for Scherff, playing alongside fourth-string center Keith Ismael.

While being without seven coaches for any game is less than ideal, those placed on the COVID-19 list do not include head coach Ron Rivera, offensive coordinator Scott Turner or defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The coaches the team will be without Tuesday include Sam Mills (defensive line), Drew Terrell (wide receivers), Randy Jordan (running backs) and Chris Harris (defensive backs).

While Rivera is able to be on the sidelines Tuesday, not every NFL team was as fortunate in Week 15.

The New Orleans Saints and the Cleveland Browns both played their games without their head coaches due to the coronavirus. The Saints were able to overcome not having Sean Payton on the sidelines in a 9-0 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday night, while the Browns, whose game was also pushed back two days due to their coronavirus outbreak, played Monday night without Kevin Stefanski. Like Washington, the Browns were without starting quarterback Baker Mayfield and backup Case Keenum in the game against Las Vegas.

More players tested positive across the league on Monday. Among the players added to the COVID-19 list were Lions quarterback Jared Goff, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Chargers stars Joey Bosa and Austin Ekeler. Bosa is not vaccinated and has already been ruled out for the team’s Week 16 game. Meanwhile, Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was suspended three games by the NFL for turning in a fake vaccination card, is set to return this week.

In addition to Washington’s COVID-19 situation, which has seen more than 25 players in protocols in the last 10 days, the team ruled out wide receiver Curtis Samuel and running back J.D. McKissic for Tuesday’s game due to injuries. Samuel, who missed the majority of the first three months of the season with a groin injury, is out for Tuesday’s game with a hamstring injury he sustained in the Week 14 loss to Dallas. McKissic, the team’s pass-catching running back, has been out with a concussion since he was carted off the field in the win over Seattle in late November.

But it wasn’t all bad news for Washington on Monday.

Wide receiver Terry McLaurin, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Dallas last week, was cleared to play; rookie right tackle Sam Cosmi (hip) was activated from injured reserve and is expected to start at right tackle; and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis was removed from the COVID-19 list.

Ioannidis joins fellow defensive linemen Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat, James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill and Daniel Wise — all of whom were removed from the COVID-19 list over the weekend. Despite playing without Chase Young, who tore his ACL in mid-November, Washington’s run defense has been one of the best in the NFL since, holding opponents to 79.2 rushing yards per game in the last five contests.

Getting back Allen, Ioannidis and Sweat, who was activated off injured reserve Monday and is set to play his first game since breaking his jaw in late October, for Tuesday’s game could be crucial against Philadelphia’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack (160 yards per game). Speedy quarterback Jalen Hurts has rushed for 695 yards and eight touchdowns, while running backs Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell have combined for 1,346 yards and 11 scores. 

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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