Colts’ Frank Reich: ‘Healthy tension’ waiting for word on COVID-19 news

Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich isn’t able to enjoy a day – really enjoy it – until he gets word from Dave Hammer.

The Indianapolis Colts’ head trainer and Infection Control Officer is the bearer of the significant news. Good and bad.

The message Reich hopes to hear?

Hey, we’re all clear on testing.

“Then every day it’s a little bit of a sigh of relief,’’ Reich said Thursday.

That’s undoubtedly the mindset of every head coach. As the NFL heads into its stretch drive – the 8-6 Colts visit the 10-4 Arizona Cardinals in Glendale on Christmas night – so much hinges on a team’s brush with COVID-19.

Wednesday, the Colts placed cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, defensive end Kemoko Turay and practice squad tight end Farrod Green on the COVID-19 list.

Thursday, they added starting right guard Mark Glowinski.

The status of Quenton Nelson was uncertain after he missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness, but the All-Pro left guard was a full participant Thursday.

Center Ryan Kelly (personal matter) and safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) have been ruled out of the Cardinals game, but not the COVID-19 cases.

“You don’t expect to get them back,’’ Reich said. “It’s in theory possible, but not probable.’’

Linebacker Zaire Franklin was placed on the COVID-19 list Dec. 13, but tested negative in time to return to the active roster for Saturday’s win over New England.

Kelly missed the week 13 game at Houston after testing positive.

Reich admitted there are anxious moments each day until Hammer delivers the medical update.

“There’s a healthy tension where, ‘Hey, we’re doing everything (possible),’’’ he said. “You’re concerned. It certainly seems like there’s been a bunch of stuff going on.

“Especially as it gets later in the week, you’re just hoping and praying nothing happens.’’

Reich addressed the players again Thursday.

“What we just talked to the players about is, ‘Hey, this is what it is. It’s a virus. We can only do what we can do. When it’s going to happen, it happens,’’’ he said.

“If guys go down, it’s gotta be next man up, and we’ve got to roll. There’s no excuses. We’ve got to find ways to win.’’

Strict protocols are in place, and players are urged to go above and beyond to limit risks of infection. The team has not suggested vaccinated players avoid family gatherings or other high-risk events during the holidays.

“We give them strong suggestions and guidelines, tell them what we think works,’’ Reich said. “I think our guys do a great job. I think they understand what’s at stake, especially what time of year it is.

“I think we’re doing the responsible thing.’’

Other teams undoubtedly are also doing the responsible thing, but so many have nonetheless been depleted by positive COVID-19 cases.

So much seems to hinge on which positions and players are impacted:

Cleveland’s game with Las Vegas was rescheduled to Monday when 20 players, including 10 starters, and head coach Kevin Stefanski tested positive. The Browns had to turn to No. 3 quarterback Nick Mullens in a game with huge playoff ramifications when starter Baker Mayfield and backup Case Keenum were placed on the COVID-19 list. They lost 16-14 on Daniel Carlson’s 48-yard field goal as time expired.

Starting center J.C. Tretter went on the virus list Thursday, one day after starting cornerback Greg Newsome II tested positive.

Washington’s game at Philadelphia – another with major playoff implications – was moved to Tuesday as it was dealing with 13 players and seven assistant coaches on the virus list. That included starting QB Taylor Heinicke and backup Kyle Allen. Washington signed Garrett Gilbert off New England’s practice squad, and he started four days later. Washington lost 27-17.

The next day, Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni tested positive.

New Orleans placed nine players on the COVID-19 list Thursday, including starting QB Taysom Hill and backup Trevor Siemian. Rookie Ian Book is expected to make his NFL debut Monday night against Miami. The emergency QB: running back Alvin Kamara.

The Baltimore Ravens were down to 13 defensive players for Thursday’s practice. Heading into Sunday’s critical showdown with Cincinnati, 19 players are on the COVID-19 list, including nine defenders.

The Houston Texans have 20 players on the virus list.

The Minnesota Vikings placed leading rusher Dalvin Cook on the COVID-19 list Thursday.

Kansas City isn’t certain if wide receiver Tyreek Hill or tight end Travis Kelce will be available for Sunday’s meeting with Pittsburgh. Both are on the COVID-19 list.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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