Just days ahead of a Week 9 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, the Kansas City Chiefs are again experiencing the first-hand effects of COVID-19. On Thursday afternoon, the defending Super Bowl champions placed Pro Bowl DT Chris Jones on the reserve/COVID-19 list, as first reported by ESPN’s Field Yates.
However, Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger and The Athletic’s Nate Taylor have since confirmed that the decision was not a result of a positive COVID test, but rather a precautionary “high risk” contact tracing measure. Jones initially tested negative on Thursday.
Jones practiced with the team on Thursday in a limited capacity, but his status for Sunday is now in doubt due to the league’s enhanced COVID protocols, which will require the fifth-year veteran to sit out for at least five days.
According to league policy, Jones can return to the team facility only if:
With less than four days until kickoff, the question now becomes when the timeline is determined to have begun.
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Chiefs’ Staffer Tests Positive on Thursday
Earlier Thursday morning, the team released a statement announcing that a staff member had tested positive for the virus and “is self-quarantining, under the team’s medical care, and contact tracing is taking place.”
Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network are reporting that Rick Burkholder, the Chiefs’ Vice President of Sports Medicine and Performance, is the recipient of the team’s latest positive test. Former practice squad QB Jordan Ta’amu became the first Chiefs player to test positive back on October 3.
Out of further precaution, Kansas City also closed its team facilities and shifted to virtual meetings following Thursday’s practice while they wait for the next round of testing results on Friday morning. The NFL has not announced any plans to reschedule the Week 9 matchup at this point.
Frank Clark Returns to Practice on Thursday
After three key Chiefs — FB Anthony Sherman, WR Sammy Watkins and CB L’Jarius Sneed — returned to practice on Wednesday, Kansas City got some reinforcements back on Thursday with the return of DE Frank Clark (knee), who participated in a limited capacity. Outside of the Clark and Jones, the report remained unchanged with RT Mitchell Schwartz (back) missing a second consecutive day of practice and DE Taco Charlton (knee), LT Eric Fisher (shoulder), DT Derrick Nnadi (ankle), C Austin Reiter (knee) and DT Khalen Saunders (elbow) listed as full participants.
Additionally, a decision on OT Martinas Rankin, who was removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list and is in the final days of his practice window ending November 11, could also come on Friday. During his Tuesday press conference, head coach Andy Reid told reporters that the 26-year-old is nearing a return.
“He’s getting there,” said Reid. “He’s real close. I think it’s great — the way this is set up where he’s got that time to get himself ready to go. He had no camp and this is the first football he’s had the last couple weeks, so it’s good for him to get in there and bang around a little bit on the scout team, so that’s what he’s been doing.”
For Carolina, star RB Christian McCaffrey remains on the injured reserve list, but continues to work his way back from a high ankle sprain that has kept him out since Week 2. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule noted on Thursday that his All-Pro playmaker looked “fresh and fast” at practice for the second consecutive day.