Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera warns team after two more players go on COVID-19 list

RICHMOND, Va. -- Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera issued a warning to his team after two more players were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, giving his players a what-if scenario: If this had happened the day before their season opener, it would impact the first two games.

Washington now has seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including defensive tackle Daron Payne, who was placed on it on Sunday. All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff and reserve tackle David Sharpe were placed on the list on Saturday.

Receiver Curtis Samuel is another starter who already was on the list, as is key reserve defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis.

Washington ranks next to last in terms of vaccination rate, having just climbed above 70% of players having at least one shot. One team remains below 70%. The overall player percentage in the NFL is 89.4, with 22 clubs over 90% and nine above 95%.

As of Saturday morning, Arizona had the most players on the reserve/COVID list with nine. The Indianapolis Colts had four players along with head coach Frank Reich.

Being on the COVID list does not mean a player has the virus. It could be based on contact tracing. But even that would cost a player five days.

As Rivera told his players after practice Saturday, if this had been the day before the opener vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, then Scherff and Sharpe would also have missed the second game because it occurs on a Thursday.

"Those guys would not be eligible, so, to me, it brings the reality of what the rules are," Rivera said, "and I hope it helps. But these young men have to make their decisions."

For now, Rivera said, it makes it hard to fully evaluate various players or units with players missing. Washington has wanted to use second-year lineman Saahdiq Charles at guard, for example, but with both Sharpe and fellow tackle Cornelius Lucas on the list, the team has mostly kept him outside.

"That's part of the problem, to be very honest," Rivera said. "That's going to make things difficult, and that's the thing we have to be aware of. It'll make it difficult in terms of everybody working together, difficult on us as coaches with our evaluations and scouts, and it'll be difficult on the player because having time off, not really getting an opportunity to work and develop and grow and learning. That's the downfall and that's the downside."

Rivera said they've set up appointments for some players to get a shot Sunday, which is their day off. He said he has talked to a number of his players about their hesitation over getting the vaccine. Rivera said he tries to provide them with information about how the vaccine was developed.

"There is some deep thought going on from some of these guys," Rivera said. "It's a matter of these guys being educated and understanding, because it's fair when you sit down and talk to these guys and listen to them and listen to their true concerns. Some guys just don't know, and I've gotten a sense that there are a few who are dug in so hard, so much that they're not going to back down. That's the part to me that's concerning because I care about all these guys. You do worry that somebody might catch it and go home and pass it on to a family member."

On Friday, Scherff, wearing a mask and 12 feet from the media, spoke about the vaccine.

"It's a personal decision for me; it's a personal decision for everybody," he said. "Nobody's made a deal of it. You know, we're all here to play football and that's what we're doing."

On Tuesday, Rivera said he was "beyond frustrated" with the team's slow pace of vaccinations. He also said he was immune deficient because of cancer last fall.

"I think just making the statement that I'm immune deficient hopefully is part of their conversation, part of their thought process," Rivera said.

"It's a personal thing, but we can sway them hopefully."

Washington had no players on its 53-man roster go on the COVID list last regular season. Two players, Ioannidis and running back Javon Leake, went on the list, but Ioannidis was on injured reserve and Leake was on the practice squad.