Chiefs’ Fan-Favorite Tight End Placed on Reserve/COVID-19 List

Jody Fortson, Creed Humphrey

Getty Kansas City Chiefs tight end Jody Fortson (#88) celebrates a touchdown with Demarcus Robinson (#11), Creed Humphrey (#52) and the rest of his offensive teammates on October 3, 2021.

With the Kansas City Chiefs‘ Week 14 game against the Las Vegas Raiders right around the corner, the defending AFC champions might have a case of COVID-19 in their tight end room.

Jody Fortson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday, December 10, according to the NFL’s official transaction report.

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Players in the NFL are subject to the reserve/COVID-19 list if they test positive for the virus or those identified through contact tracing as having been exposed, per The Washington Post.

According to a memo — which was obtained by NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero — that was sent to clubs from the NFL back in July, vaccinated players or staff that test positive for the virus and are asymptomatic are eligible to return to duty if they register two negative tests 24 hours apart. For unvaccinated players, just like in 2020, they must quarantine for 10 days and will be permitted to return to duty if they are asymptomatic.

It is unknown at this time if Fortson has been fully vaccinated, or if Fortson contracted COVID-19 or was in close contact with it.

At the start of training camp, 90 percent of the Kansas City team was vaccinated, according to head coach Andy Reid. As of August 17, the team was over 95 percent vaccinated, a league spokesperson told KSHB 41’s, Casey Murray. “The spokesperson said that makes them one of seven NFL teams to hit the 95% mark,” Murray wrote.

The hope is that Fortson — who may still be participating in meetings with his teammates in the tight end room despite being on injured reserve — doesn’t spark an outbreak — if he actually contracted the virus — which would cause players like Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, and Noah Gray to miss time.

Fortson’s Cinderella Story Halted in Week 6

During the third quarter of the Chiefs’ 31-13 win over the Washington Football Team in Week 6, Fortson hit the ground in visible pain after having suffered a non-contact injury.

Off the bat, the injury did not look good based on the reaction of his teammates and the look of expression on Fortson’s face as he was carted to the locker room. Several minutes later the team ruled Fortson out with an Achilles injury. After the game, head coach Andy Reid confirmed what Chiefs Kingdom had feared was the diagnosis.

“Jody Fortson tore his Achilles,” Reid said.

Fortson’s injury put an end to a cinderella-like story this season. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019. His first and only stop in the NFL has been with the Chiefs, where he’s been signed, released, and then re-signed to the practice squad every season leading up to 2021.

The biggest reason for Fortson making the active roster this year: a position change. This offseason he made the transition from wide receiver to tight end, and while it was a bumpy road at first, Fortson’s position change has worked out in his favor and has the organization on his side.

“Guys like that, it’s easy to kind of feel sorry for yourself and just want to go start fresh somewhere else, but the kid came back to training camp with just a completely different mindset,” general manager Brett Veach said of Fortson on September 1.

“It was like he had just wiped the slate clean and wants to attack this thing and get after it. You guys heard him mention about getting with [Dave] Toub and finding out how he can get better at teams. So, it was really an awesome story to see him get his position moved, struggle, but just continue to work and just put the blinders on and not listen to the outside noise.”

Despite being one of four tight ends on the active roster this season, Fortson was still utilized by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and found a lot of success over the first five weeks of the regular season. He had four catches for 20 yards and two touchdowns heading into Week 6, per Pro Football Reference. Early in the first quarter against Washington, Fortson had an incredible catch over a defensive back for 27 yards that will likely find its way onto SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays.

Fortson’s Future With Chiefs a Bit Murky

With Fortson out for the season, he will continue the uphill battle that is his NFL journey. Once he rehabs back from his injury, Fortson will once again have to fight next summer to make Kansas City’s 53-man roster. With Travis Kelce and rookie Noah Gray expected to be on the team next season, Fortson’s best hope of making the active roster in 2022 is the Chiefs not re-signing Blake Bell, who inked a one-year, $1.12 million contract last offseason, according to Spotrac, making him a free agent next year.

However, even if Bell isn’t re-signed, depending on how the 2022 offseason plays out for the Chiefs it will still be difficult for Fortson to make the team again.


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