‘Next man up mentality’: Chiefs ready to face Steelers with several players on COVID watch

Kansas City Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs have several players on their reserve/COVID list, including key players like wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce.

On Thursday, defensive lineman Chris Jones and cornerback Charvarius Ward returned to practice.

With Hill, Kelce and other significant players like kicker Harrison Butker and cornerback Rashad Fenton still on the list, coaches and players are doing their game prep as if those players won’t suit up.

“We’ve gone through this for two years now, so anything is possible, and we get it. The next guy
has got to be ready to go,” head coach Andy Reid said.

“They’ve given us opportunities to replace people with the number of practice squad and elevations, and this and that. So we just go next man up and roll and hope those guys get better.”

“COVID can hit anyone, and I think you’re seeing that. All we can do is have guys step up,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said.

“We have a lot of great guys in this locker room, and I have the full trust in them that they can get the job done and hopefully find a way to get the win on Sunday.”

Any player or coach who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to quarantine until they are cleared to return, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms or an individual’s vaccination status.

Under new NFL protocols, vaccinated players have three ways they can return to play:

  • Two PCR tests that are either negative or produce a certain “cycle threshold” value, essentially showing if they’re contagious or not.
  • One PCR test that is either negative or produces a certain CT value, and a negative Mesa test result taken with 24 hours of the PCR test.
  • Two negative Mesa tests.

Unvaccinated players are still automatically required to sit out for 10 days.

With a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chiefs could clinch a playoff spot, so the focus for the team is how they best execute the game plan with the people they have.

“I’ll tell you what, there’s going to be a whole lot of Kansas City Chiefs dressed up out there with uniforms, you’ll just be missing those two particular players (Hill and Kelce),” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said.

“We take a tremendous amount of pride in making sure that our guys are ready. We have a great coaching staff that are smart coaches that have built relationships with the people in this building. These guys are looking forward to that opportunity if presented. The thing about it, they’re fired up for it. So we’re looking forward to it.”

And defensive end Frank Clark knows the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is a dangerous quarterback that can cause damage to the prominent Chiefs defense.

“A large percent of his passes are getting the ball out fast, the fact that he’s always throwing checkdowns at a higher rate than the average quarterback,” Clark said.

“It only takes two drops for him to get into his throwing rotation to get the ball out. It’s not a defensive end or an interior lineman that’s going to get to the ball with a guy doing that, so hats off to him.”

The Chiefs face the Steelers on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. CT.

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