The Green Bay Packers will now have at least four players on the COVID-19 reserve list after adding three more, including two presumptive starters, to the list on Thursday.
The Packers placed veteran kicker Mason Crosby, second-year tight end Jace Sternberger and free-agent defensive tackle Treyvon Hester on the COVID-19 reserve list, a new category of players who have either tested positive for the coronavirus or who have been quarantined after having been in close contact with at least one infected person.
The Packers had already placed second-year outside linebacker Greg Roberts on the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday after their first round of testing.
Teams are not allowed to specify why a player was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, but players seeking to return to the active roster must clear protocols based on whether they tested positive for the virus or whether they are symptomatic. The list requires players to be out for a minimum of five days if they are asymptomatic or a minimum of 10 days from when the player got sick if they are symptomatic.
The Packers’ active roster now sits at 85 players after putting three players on the COVID-19 reserve list and claiming another one — H-back/fullback John Lovett — off the waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs. They must trim down to just 80 players before full-squad practices begin during this summer’s training camp, per new NFL guidelines.
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What Absences Mean for Packers Training Camp
There is nothing ideal about trying to play football during a coronavirus pandemic nor is there anything good about players getting sick, but the loss of two key contributors in Crosby and Sternberger adds an extra hurdle to the Packers’ preparation this summer.
The 35-year-old Crosby, who signed a contract extension through 2022 in February, would certainly slide back into his starting role once he returns to the active roster, but don’t be surprised if the Packers have to add another kicker as a safeguard measure. Even if they feel good about Crosby’s timeline, any setbacks could leave the Packers in a tight spot without as much time and exposure during this year’s preseason.
The situation is even less fortunate for Sternberger, who missed nearly his entire rookie season with a preseason injury before standing out late in the postseason with some strong play. The 2019 third-round pick has been a favorite to claim the starting job at tight end with veteran starter Jimmy Graham now out of the picture, but a prolonged absence from camp activities could benefit his challengers, including Robert Tonyan, veteran Marcedes Lewis and rookie Josiah Deguara.
The good news for Crosby and Sternberger is both are almost certain to have roster spots locked down regardless of how they perform in camp, as one is the third-highest-paid kicker in the NFL and the other is an early-round draft pick in just his second year. The same cannot be said for both Hester and Roberts, though, who each need their valuable training camp reps to prove they belong with the team heading into the 2020 season.
The Packers need depth along their defensive line, so much so that they have tooled around with moving starting outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and primary backup Rashan Gary inside to help nose tackle Kenny Clark on certain plays. Hester was signed to potentially solve that problem with three years of experience under his belt, but his background isn’t substantial enough for the Packers to bet on him without some proof provided in training camp.
As for Roberts, the COVID-19 reserve designation could be the final straw for his time in Green Bay. The 2019 undrafted free agent was placed on the PUP list to begin last year’s training camp and never return to the active roster, eventually returning to the injured reserve list. He was still seen as a challenger for the No. 4 spot behind the Smith Bros. and Gary at outside linebacker, but he’ll also need to prove as much as he can to stick around after camp.