The NFL dealt with an unexpected problem late on a standard Monday: The most positive COVID tests since the start of the pandemic. 37 players and personnel were positive, including at least one with the Omicron variant. That news is a bit alarming as that is not only a high number of players positive (with some missing games, including multiple starters tonight for Monday Night Football), but NFL tests typically go up and down with the general population’s positivity rate.
Whether these positive tests are related to the more-contagious but (so far) less-dangerous Omicron variant, or part of a post-Thanksigiving, winter-time bump is unknown. While the general population is certain to see an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, the NFL is significantly more vaccinated and younger with better and easier access to healthcare than the general population. That means players and personnel are unlikely to suffer major health issues but instead will miss some time while they are contagious.
Of note is with the number of tests positive on this standard Monday, a significant portion of those positive played in games just yesterday. Those players include Falcons special teamer Emmanuel Ellerbee, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List on Monday. Ellerbee, who you may recall as having an offseason stint with the Falcons in 2018 before landing on the practice squad, came back this 2021 offseason only to end up yet again on the practice squad. He was elevated to the active roster on November 18, 2021 and plays some special teams in that time.
The Falcons had two other players placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 List along with Ellerbee: corner Cornell Armstrong and linebacker Quinton Bell. If you do not recognize those names, it is because both were signed to the the team’s practice squad. Neither has played a snap for the team this season, with Armstrong signing with the Falcons only six days ago.
For the Falcons, this should be only a limited impact on the current team. However, if this is part of a trend of increasing COVID cases across the general population, or if there was spread from these players, we may see a number of additional players on that list in the oncoming days. The Falcons, suddenly with playoff odds in the realm of possibility, cannot lose many players to COVID ahead of the important match-up against the San Francisco 49ers.