The Kansas City Chiefs have played their past two games without starting LB Damien Wilson, now it appears there’s a chance they could be without both starters for Sunday’s Week 16 matchup versus the Atlanta Falcons.
Anthony Hitchens, who has started all 44 of his games played for the franchise since signing on in 2018, was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, per the NFL’s official transaction report for December 22.
Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens has been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, per NFL transactions report.
— Sam McDowell (@SamMcDowell11) December 22, 2020
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the seventh-year veteran was deemed a “high-risk close contact” rather than producing a confirmed positive test, meaning there is still a chance for Hitchens to suit up on Sunday should he continue to test negative during five consecutive days in isolation.
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Steve Spagnuolo Calls Hitchens the Defensive ‘Glue’
Entrusted with the lone green-dot playcalling helmet on the Kansas City defense, Hitchens importance to the unit can’t be understated.
While Atlanta poses only a middling threat on offense (14th in total yards, 15th in points scored), playing without both starting linebackers, especially one of Hitchens caliber, would be an uphill battle for Steve Spagnuolo’s group.
Hitchens has that base and nickel run defense playing ridiculously well over the last three weeks. Losing him hurts more than some realize. https://t.co/Da0BI3NhRp
— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) December 22, 2020
“To me, he’s the glue,” the Chiefs veteran defensive coordinator told reporters on December 10, via Arrowhead Pride. “I showed something this morning from [Wednesday’s] practice, and made the point that we should all feel fortunate that we have Hitch as our MIKE linebacker. He does a lot of things before the ball is snapped, and he helps everyone else play better. I’m sure glad we got him, I think he’s playing some really good football. He’s always played aggressive, he’s always tackled physically… All of us, players and coaches, appreciate what he does.”
Originally a fourth-round pick (No. 119 overall) of the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, the 28-year-old is now in year three of a five-year, $45 million free-agent contract signed during the 2018 offseason. Hitchens has been a model of consistency throughout his career and tenure in Kansas City, racking up at least 75 tackles and 14 games played in six of his seven pro seasons.
“We talked recently, and he shared that with me as well,” Hitchens later said of Spagnuolo’s comments. “That’s a lot of praise coming from the head guy right there. He put a lot of faith in me to get everyone lined up, making sure we get in and out of troubled downs and situations. Knowing that, I know I have to be ready and prepared every week and be out there for my teammates.”
Chiefs Part Ways With Practice Squad Receiver
In addition to losing Hitchens to the COVID-19 list, the AFC West champions shook up their practice squad again on Tuesday. Per the transaction wire, the Chiefs have released WR Chad Williams, who was just added to the group last Friday, December 18.
The #Chiefs terminated the practice squad contract of WR Chad Williams.
— Nick Jacobs (@Jacobs71) December 22, 2020
The team also confirmed the signings of WR Tajae Sharpe and RB Elijah McGuire, via Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star.
Chiefs placed LB Anthony Hitchens on the reserve/COVID-19 list, per Tuesday's NFL Transactions report.
Also, the expected signings I previously reported on RB Elijah McGuire and WR Tajae Sharpe are official now.
— Herbie Teope (@HerbieTeope) December 22, 2020
Teope reported on December 17 that Sharpe, 25, was likely to join the practice squad after visiting the club last Thursday. Similarly, Kansas City has proceeded to add McGuire following his reported visit on Monday, per ESPN’s Field Yates. Unlike Sharpe, a 2016 fifth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans who was recently cut by the Minnesota Vikings, McGuire offers some recent experience in Andy Reid’s offense after spending much of the 2019 season and this past offseason with the Chiefs.
The 26-year-old running back will be counted on as insurance at the position following Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s multi-week hip and ankle injuries expected to sideline him into the postseason in January.
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the Kansas City Chiefs from enemy territory in Denver, Colorado. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on Chiefs Facebook community for the latest out of Chiefs Kingdom!