Training camp has kicked off, which is exciting. Three players have already been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for the Falcons, which is significantly less exciting.
Jamal Carter and Keith Smith, who both joined the Falcons last year and had fairly significant roles for the team, are the two latest players to be placed on the list. Players who hit the list are out for an indefinite amount of time (at least until the NFL better defines it for the public), must have two negative COVID-19 tests to rejoin the team, and either have the virus or came in close, confirmed contact with someone who has. The team is not going to tell us which one is which, obviously.
We have placed FB Keith Smith and S Jamal Carter on the reserve/COVID-19 list. https://t.co/sDYsm7fVhw— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) July 29, 2020
UPDATE: Vaughn McClure at ESPN reports that Carter does, indeed, have COVID-19, but does not have symptoms.
Falcons safety Jamal Carter has tested positive for COVID-19. He has been told he’ll be quarantined for 10 days. He’s feeling good and showing no symptoms, I’m told.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) July 29, 2020
Realistically, the team was never going to skate into the regular season without players being added to the list, either by proximity or because they’re infected. The earlier in the offseason the better in many ways, though for the players themselves this is tough because they won’t get that practice time in ahead of the season.
For Smith, that’s less of a major deal, given that he has a three year contract and is more or less locked in as the team’s starting fullback. A punishing blocker and key special teams player, Smith will have some competition from versatile UDFA Mikey Daniel, but Daniel is more likely to carve out a role as a hybrid runner and blocker if he ultimately makes the team. Smith’s job is secure so long as he’s healthy.
Carter is less of a sure thing, and a classic example of a player who is going to be hurt by being placed on this list. A reserve safety and big hitter, Carter got some time at safety a year ago and would like to carve out a role as a special teamer and possibly the last safety on the roster. There’s significant competition for that gig—including Jaylinn Hawkins, who wound up on the reserve/COVID-19 list yesterday—and his absence will allow others to show out for the coaching staff.
We hope both players are healthy and able to rejoin the team soon, and we hope there are not many more players who will be added to this list in the days ahead. Unfortunately, the number is unlikely to be zero.