Atlanta has, to this point, been lightly impacted by the wave of COVID-19 that is currently crashing over the entire NFL. When you look around the league and see teams like New Orleans and Washington playing games down 10-plus players, you’re very thankful that the Falcons don’t have the health and gameday concerns that come with those positive tests.
Well, you were thankful, anyways. It appears the wave is now reaching the shores of Flowery Branch, to stretch this metaphor a little further, as the Falcons announced four players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Brandon Copeland, Tajae Sharpe, Dorian Etheridge and James Vaughters are all placed on the COVID-19 list by the Falcons.— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) December 27, 2021
That’s two key members of the team’s outside linebacker rotation on the list, as both Copeland and Vaughters typically play 10-20 snaps per game. Both are also contributors on special teams, and the team will likely be looking at free agent pass rushers and their practice squad in case they can’t suit up against the Bills. Vaughters in particular has had his moments as a pass rusher, and the Falcons are going to need all hands on deck against Josh Allen.
Sharpe just missed the last game due to injury, and Olamide Zaccheaus would presumably step in as a starter again if he can’t go Sunday. As an Arthur Smith favorite and one of the team’s most sure-handed receivers, Sharpe is not someone the team is going to be keen to do without for a second straight Sunday. They may have to, though.
Etheridge has primarily been a practice squad linebacker and special teams contributor who may step into a larger reserve role in 2022. If the Falcons are without him on top of Copeland and Vaughters on Sunday, they’ll be having to plug holes on special teams for Marquice Williams and company.
The most important thing, as always, is that these players are healthy. We’ll hope these positive tests don’t mean any symptoms and that all four can suit up Sunday, and we’ll likely find out more later this week.