New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh tests positive for COVID-19

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Robert Saleh tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning, the team announced.

Saleh, 42, was tested for the virus after reporting symptoms, according to the team. Tight ends coach Ron Middleton, who led practice Wednesday, will remain the interim head coach until Saleh clears protocols.

The Jets (3-11) face the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-12) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

"I'm not reinventing the wheel here," Middleton said after practice. "I'm just trying to steer the ship, keep the ship steered in the right direction. So far, no issues. Hopefully, it stays like that."

Middleton said he was informed last week by Saleh, who wasn't feeling well at the time, that he'd be the interim coach in the event of a positive test. At 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, Saleh called a staff meeting to inform the coaches of his positive test. By noon, the team was on the field for its daily walk-through.

"I had 45 minutes for it to soak in," said Middleton, who addressed the team on the field before the walk-through.

The Jets have been conducting virtual meetings since last week. The plan could change, but the expectation is that Saleh will continue to lead the team meetings.

It's possible, under the new protocols, that Saleh could be cleared to return as soon as Thursday.

"Hopefully, we get him back toward the end of the week, but safety and family are always first," linebacker C.J. Mosley said.

Mosley, sharing Middleton's message to the team, said: "We're all professionals, we have a job to do. He said, 'Our routing number doesn't change. We still want to get paid, so let's go to work.'"

Saleh became the third NFL head coach to test positive, joining the Cleveland Browns' Kevin Stefanski and the New Orleans Saints' Sean Payton (twice). Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was added to that list as he entered COVID-19 protocols later Wednesday.

The Jets added three players to the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, bringing the total to 17 players on the list, including four practice squad players.

"It's crazy," tackle George Fant said. "You see other teams getting hit with it. I guess it's our turn."

Middleton, 56, a former NFL tight end with no previous head-coaching experience, knows Saleh from their days on the Jacksonville staff. Before Wednesday, the only time he had led a practice was at Duke University, where he stepped in for a day as the associate head coach.

"I'm strictly team," Middleton said. "There's no selfish or personal deal in it at all. It's strictly team, whatever I can do to help beat the Jaguars on Sunday."

Saleh, in his first season as the Jets' coach, is 3-11. The team is mired in its third three-game losing streak of the season.