On Saturday morning Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that a Pittsburgh Steelers player and coach tested positive for COVID-19. Shortly afterwards, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network reported that the player in question is running back James Conner.
“He is awaiting a second test tomorrow to confirm these results,” noted Kinkhabwala, who says that contact tracing continues in Pittsburgh, with Brooke Pryor of ESPN predicting that the number of players added to Pittsburgh’s Reserve/COVID-19 list “is going to keep climbing.”
James Conner’s Decision Not to Opt-Out in 2020
Conner’s positive test is particularly notable because he decided to play this season in spite of his medical history. In an interview with Heavy.com in July, Conner indicated he didn’t feel any extra vulnerability to the virus and said he consulted with physicians before making a decision.
“It’s been four years and my immune system is a lot stronger than it was and I’m fully recovered so I’m not worried or scared,” he said, making reference to the fact that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015 while in college at the University of Pittsburgh. In May he celebrated four years cancer-free.
But his decision to play this year placed him in contrast to New England Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon, a fellow cancer survivor who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and decided to opt out of playing football this season.
The Steelers had no players opt-out due to COVID-19 concerns, putting them amongst a small minority of NFL teams with no opt-outs.
But at least one NFL player has suffered significant complications in the wake of contracting the virus. In late October, Adam Schefter reported that Jacksonville Jaguars running back Ryquell Armstead, 23, has been hospitalized twice with “a variety of complications connected to the virus, including significant respiratory issues.” Armstead is not expected to play again until 2021.
Steelers Players & COVID-19
James Conner is now the second Steelers running back known to have tested positive for the virus. In August—after missing almost two weeks worth of training camp—third-year back Jaylen Samuels confirmed that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Steelers family has also been impacted in a variety of other ways. In July, practice squad offensive tackle Jarron Jones told Steelers.com that his father spent 47 days in the hospital battling COVID-19.
And on September 8th, the son of former Steelers first-round draft pick Jamain Stephens passed away at the age of 20. The family later came out and indicated that the youngster died “after suffering complications from COVID-19.”
Steelers-Ravens COVID-19 Update
On Friday, the Steelers added three linemen to the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list, including starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt. As of Saturday morning, Pittsburgh had four players on its Reserve/COVID-19 list, including rookie offensive guard Kevin Dotson, who was added on November 14th.
The Ravens—who the Steelers are scheduled to play on Tuesday night—currently have 14 players on their Reserve/COVID-19 list, including starting quarterback Lamar Jackson.
But that won’t stop the Ravens from battling the Steelers come early next week.
“Our organization has a plan in place, and we will be prepared to play the Steelers,” said Ravens head coach John Harbaugh in a statement. “We thank everyone for their adaptability and look forward to the challenge of facing a very good football team at Heinz Field on Tuesday night.”
According to Pro Football Talk, practice squad guard Will Holden is the only Ravens player who tested positive for the virus on Friday and no new positive tests have been reported among the Ravens thus far on Saturday.
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