Montez Sweat was close to getting back on the field for Washington — he had been expected to practice Wednesday for the first time since breaking his jaw against the Denver Broncos on Halloween — when his bid to resume his season hit a pandemic bump.
The Washington Football Team put Sweat on the COVID-19 reserve list Wednesday — meaning he will have to miss at least 10 days because the 25-year-old reportedly tested positive and is unvaccinated. The NFL has different procedures for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. A vaccinated player who tests positive for the virus can return if they have two negative tests within 24 hours apart and receive medical clearance.
The news comes as the latest setback for Washington in terms of availability. In addition to the virus, the Burgundy and Gold have been hit hard by on-the-field injuries this year.
Also on Wednesday, the team placed tight end Logan Thomas on injured reserve — marking the official end of his season. NFL rules state that if a player lands on the list twice, as Thomas has, then they must miss the rest of the year. Thomas suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s win over the Las Vegas Raiders and before that, he missed six weeks because of a hamstring.
The NFL Network and ESPN reported that Sweat tested positive for the virus. Sweat will miss Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys for certain and will likely miss next week’s game at Philadelphia, as well.
The soonest Sweat will be eligible to come off the list is Saturday, Dec. 18 — making it a tough turnaround for a player who hasn’t practiced in over a month because of his jaw. While some players like Aaron Rodgers have come out of quarantine to play in a game without practice, Sweat’s extended time off likely means he won’t be available.
Sweat created a stir in the offseason when he admitted he was “not a fan” of the team’s push to get players vaccinated.
“I probably won’t get vaccinated until I get more facts and that stuff,” Sweat said in June. “I’m not a fan of it at all. I haven’t caught COVID yet so I don’t see me treating COVID until I actually get COVID.”
Washington dealt with a low vaccination rate during training camp — fueling some criticism of players by coach Ron Rivera. Rivera openly advocated for players to get vaccinated and the team subsequently saw a sizable uptick in players who got the shot in time for the start of the regular season.
Sweat is now the ninth Washington player to land on the COVID-19 reserve list this season — seven of those players are still on the roster. Seven of the nine additions to the list were during training camp.
Sweat’s positive test comes at a bad time for Washington, which is hoping to extend a four-game winning streak that has put it back in the postseason playoff chase. Rivera said he was hopeful Sweat would practice this week after missing the last four games with a fractured jaw.
The team is already without star pass rusher Chase Young, who tore his ACL in November. The team has started James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill in their place.
Sweat has four sacks this season, second behind defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. The 2019 first-round draft choice out of Mississippi State led the team in that category last season with nine.
“With this time of year, with the potential for breakthrough (cases) and all that, it’s just frustrating period,” Rivera said Wednesday. “It really is. It’s just the unfortunate part. But we’re okay. We’re going to be fine. I like our guys and we’re looking forward to Sunday.”
Rivera said without Thomas, veteran Ricky Seals-Jones and rookies John Bates and Sammis Reyes will step up, telling reporters he “feels good” about the depth at tight end.
Washington could also be thinner at linebacker against the Cowboys. The team placed 2020 fifth-rounder Khaleke Hudson (ankle) on injured reserve and on Wednesday, rookie Jamin Davis missed practice because he is in concussion protocol. Rivera said Davis reported symptoms following the win in Vegas.
Landon Collins missed Wednesday’s practice, as well, but the hybrid safety-linebacker was seen on the side field rehabbing the foot injury that caused him to miss last game.
To fill Thomas’ roster spot, the team signed running back Jonathan Williams off the New York Giants practice squad. The team signed with Williams with practice squad back Wendell Smallwood, who played in Sunday’s game, a “little bit sore,” Rivera said.
Veteran running back J.D. McKissic has also been out with a concussion since he got hurt against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 29. McKissic did not practice Wednesday.