The Los Angeles Rams are skating on thin ice ahead of their Sunday matchup with the New York Jets at SoFi stadium.
Needing a win to clinch a berth in the NFL Playoffs, five players missed practice on Thursday because a player tested positive for COVID-19.
Thus far, the Rams have been one of the lucky ones. After outbreaks in New England, Baltimore, Denver, and Las Vegas this season, Los Angeles has yet to have a player on the 53-man roster miss a game because of COVID-19.
However, the Rams luck might be running out.
Offensive linemen Bobby Evans and Brian Allen, linebackers Obo Okoronkwo and Justin Hollins, and safety Nick Scott, all were absent on Thursday for practice after a player tested positive for the coronavirus.
McVay declined to identify the player that tested positive, but acknowledged that the other four players were out because of contact tracing. McVay did not know if any of the five players would be available against the Jets on Sunday.
"This is totally unprecedented and navigating through it and trying to understand all the nuances gives me that much more of an appreciation and a respect for what the league has done and then really just a lot of our guys up to this point, because hopefully this is as minimum of an impact as possible," said McVay. "What that means as far as for those guys for the game, I think we'll hopefully have some updates in the next 24 hours or so."
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McVay said that the players would all continue to be tested in case the result was a false positive.
"That's what we're waiting for and that's kind of what has led us to this," said McVay. "But if I told you guys about all of what goes on, whether it's false positives and stuff like that, I mean, the mental gymnastics is absolutely exhausting."
Meanwhile, positive cases are surging across Los Angeles county. There were 14,418 new cases announced on Thursday, bringing the total to 580,325 so far. Over 4,864 people were hospitalized on Thursday with the county announcing that ICU capacity in Southern California was at 0 percent.
The Rams have had positive tests before, but thus far it has mostly unaffected the team. Allen was the first known case in the NFL back in April, and offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth announced he and his family had tested positive over the summer. Linebacker Terrell Lewis missed the start of training camp because of a positive COVID-19 test as well.
Back in November, three players on the Rams practice squad were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but none of the players on the 53-man roster were affected, and all three players returned to the team shortly thereafter.
The following week, another player and a member of the coaching staff tested positive, causing the team to cancel practice. However, those results were likely a false-positive after all subsequent tests for the two players were negative.
Last week, another member of the practice squad tested positive and was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Thursday marked the first time that players on the active roster were forced to miss practice because of a COVID-19 related issue.
"They missed all of practice," McVay said of the five players. "We were made aware of a positive earlier, then we followed through with some contact traces and that's what's reflected.”
Meanwhile, the Rams have stepped up their safety protocols this week. They signed an extra punter and long-snapper to the practice squad in case any of their special teams unit were forced to miss a game because of a COVID-19 related issue.
On Wednesday, starting quarterback Jared Goff said that he has had to keep his distance from backup quarterback John Wolford at practice and in meetings in case one of them were to test positive for COVID-19, making sure that both quarterbacks would not be out because of contact tracing.
“In meetings we're not anywhere near each other,” Goff said. “We're sitting on opposite sides of the tented area and just trying to keep our distance. If something were to happen to either of us, you would hate for it to take out both of us, so it's definitely a conscious effort."
A similar situation happened earlier in the year with the Denver Broncos in which four different quarterbacks were all ruled ineligible because of COVID-19 related issues and contact tracing. According to head coach Vic Fangio, the players failed to observe mask protocol and were subsequently fined by the team. Practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton was forced to start at quarterback in a 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
The Rams are hoping that they don't find themselves in a similar situation this week against the Jets. So far, it appears just the five players could be out on Sunday, but McVay acknowledged he would know more in the next 24-48 hours. In the meantime, it was business as usual during practice on Thursday.
"We had to make some adjustments, but it didn't affect the amount of work we were able to get in," said McVay.