There is no good time to go on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list, even with isolation requirements being shortened. Nobody wants to be sick, nobody wants to spread the virus, and these being NFL players, none of them want to miss games. It’s a bad situation, one teams have been working hard to avoid all year.
Unfortunately, while the Falcons have had very few players land on the list in 2021, that’s changing before their matchup with Buffalo this weekend. They’ve added four more players to the list, including Jaylinn Hawkins and Hayden Hurst, and now have 12 players on the list with only a few days before Sunday’s game.
We have placed four players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. https://t.co/M5MZhi6eL6— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) December 29, 2021
As I always repeat, the priority is player health, and because the team is fully vaccinated the hope is that if any of these players are positive for COVID-19, they’ll be asymptomatic or experience very mild symptoms and be healthy and back on the field soon. Obviously from a team perspective, having twelve players on this list at any time is wildly unideal, but having multiple starters and key contributors there ahead of one of the most difficult matchups of the season without a clear idea how many (if any) of them will be back Sunday is not great. This is going to make an uphill battle even more uphill.
As for the four players, three of them have gameday roles the Falcons will have to fill somehow. Hurst, who has two touchdowns in the past three weeks, is a key part of the team’s red zone offense of late. Hawkins is coming off a fine game taking over a starting safety spot for an injured Erik Harris and would be counted on to start again if he can go Sunday. Jonathan Bullard played quite a few snaps last week as a rotational defensive lineman, the role he’s had when healthy. Only practice squad tackle Willie Beavers is not someone you’d expect to be active on gameday. James Vaughters, Brandon Copeland, Richie Grant, Marlon Davidson and Tyeler Davison are all players you’d expect to see out there on Sunday with some sort of role who are all on the list, and that means this team’s outside linebacker, safety, and defensive line groups are pretty decimated at the moment.
We’ll see what updates we get throughout the week, but the Falcons are going to have to dip deep into their reserve and practice squad talent to get through this week in all likelihood. Again, we’ll hope everyone’s healthy soon and this doesn’t spread any further than it already has, but all we can do right now is wait for updates.