As COVID-19 surges, some NFL teams are taking extra precautions to keep their quarterbacks from contracting the virus, although the efforts aren't always successful.
Just as in 2020, teams such as the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts are coping with the possibility of not having their top quarterback available for a key game. Vikings starter Kirk Cousins was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday and will miss Sunday night's tilt against the Green Bay Packers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC). Colts starter Carson Wentz was placed on the list Wednesday, but he was activated Saturday and is available for Sunday's game against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Cousins and Wentz are unvaccinated.
Whether it's keeping one quarterback isolated, spacing out the quarterback room, holding virtual meetings or adhering to other safety guidelines outlined by the league and government officials, here is how some NFL teams that have either locked up a playoff bid or are contending for one are trying to ensure they have a healthy quarterback. Teams are listed by conference seeding.
All three of the Packers' quarterbacks -- Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love and the practice squad's Kurt Benkert -- have had COVID-19 this season, so they don't need to test anymore. The soonest Rodgers would be subjected to another test would be the week of the Super Bowl. Love is clear from testing through the Super Bowl.
While the Packers wouldn't need to do anything special for their quarterbacks, coach Matt LaFleur has said he will take the team virtual for everything but practice whenever he feels there's a reason to do so. -- ESPN Packers reporter Rob Demovsky
Because the Cowboys are in a virtual-meeting mode anyway, they do not need to separate quarterbacks. In fact, they even pulled No. 3 quarterback Will Grier from virtual meetings because he had sniffles, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Ultimately, the Cowboys hope to get back to in-person -- yet, socially distanced -- meetings before the playoffs and have talked about different scenarios.
"We are very cognizant of the position groups and being smart with everybody," McCarthy said. "But it's really the personal focus is what's most important. As far as our time together, outside of being on the practice field and in the locker room, the way it's set up, I think we are doing a really good job here." -- ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer
Bucs interim head coach Harold Goodwin called it "business as usual in the quarterback room" and praised that position group for its adherence to COVID-19 protocols. The Buccaneers have had an emergency option there for the past two seasons in tight end Cameron Brate, should Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin all not be available.
The Bucs keep four quarterbacks with three on the active roster, so that helps. -- ESPN Bucs reporter Jenna Laine
None of the quarterbacks on Arizona's roster -- Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley and Chris Streveler -- has had COVID-19 this season. Arizona will continue to space them out but not separate them.
"We feel like we have a good plan for it," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. -- ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss
"We've been pretty fortunate with it so far having just one guy down," Shanahan said. "But just watching the world and watching everybody, knowing how it's a matter of time is what it looks like, so we're just trying to be careful and keep everyone separate right now until we go outside."
The Niners also signed QB Tyler Bray to the practice squad, which means they have Bray and Nate Sudfeld as QBs on the practice squad and Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance on the active roster. -- ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner
"We're going to make some adjustments ... we're going to definitely make even more adjustments than what we need to just keep everybody safe," Sirianni said. "The quarterbacks will be in separate rooms. We're going to be even more safe with them being in separate rooms." -- ESPN Eagles reporter Tim McManus
The Vikings had a scare on Sunday when backup quarterback Sean Mannion, who is vaccinated, was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list hours before their game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. That forced rookie Kellen Mond, who hadn't been active for a game all season, to be Cousins' backup. The Vikings lost 30-23 as their playoff hopes continued to slide.
During the week, coach Mike Zimmer said the team was taking more safety measures by separating their quarterbacks in meetings.
"We don't want those guys in the same room together, so we're going to try and spread them apart," Zimmer said.
It didn't work. Cousins tested positive Friday, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. The Vikings' chances of reaching the postseason if they lose Sunday will be 2%, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.
Mannion was activated from the list Friday and is in line for the third start of his career. -- ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin
Coach Arthur Smith has been putting protocols in place for his quarterbacks -- and other positions -- throughout the season, trying to mitigate risk as best as possible.
"I don't think anybody has the perfect solution right now," Smith said. "I think that's the one thing that's painfully obvious about the omicron variant."
Quarterback Matt Ryan said he has done everything he could from a vaccination and booster standpoint to protect himself. And inside the Falcons' building, everyone has been spaced out all year in different parts of a room to limit contact and not be as closely positioned around each other.
"We're not in a tight meeting room," Ryan said. "None of us are really that close all day." -- ESPN Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein
The Saints already suffered through the worst-case scenario last week when they lost their top two quarterbacks, Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian, along with 18 other eligible players, to positive COVID-19 tests. The Saints had to start rookie QB Ian Book in Monday night's 20-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. But now, both Hill and Siemian should be available for the remainder of the season, so the Saints won't have to worry about isolating them at this point. -- ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett
Washington Football Team
Washington's top two quarterbacks, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, both missed the Dec. 21 game at Philadelphia because they had tested positive for COVID-19, and Kyle Shurmur was put on the list Thursday. But there is one other quarterback on the roster, Garrett Gilbert, and there are coaches to consider, so Washington will continue to take precautions. Rather than sit in their usual small meeting room, the seven of them take over the team meeting room that has 75 seats. Coach Ron Rivera said they wear masks and spread out. -- ESPN Washington Football Team reporter John Keim
The Titans still have their quarterbacks in the building. They'll use the practice bubble for meeting space and also have what coach Mike Vrabel described as "a massive team meeting room that you have just a few people in."
Overall, the organization is taking a conscious approach to ensure that everybody is more than adequately spaced out. Quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Logan Woodside are vaccinated. -- ESPN Titans reporter Turron Davenport
The Bengals used a "quarantine" quarterback last season, and they're similarly isolating practice squad quarterback Jake Browning this season.
A couple of weeks ago, coach Zac Taylor said the team removed Browning from the quarterback meetings and had him join via video teleconferencing in order to limit the potential physical interactions. Taylor said the quarterbacks have voluntarily worn masks and made efforts to limit in-person contact to practices and games. -- ESPN Bengals reporter Ben Baby
The Bills have kept their plans for quarantining any quarterbacks private, but the team has been meeting virtually for the past two weeks, which makes any separation plans mostly unnecessary. On top of that, backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky missed two games on the reserve/COVID-19 list over a month ago, which means he is not currently testing.
"We talk about those things quite a bit, trying to go through all the scenarios and impossible situations that could come up," coach Sean McDermott said. "So we haven't decided to go that route yet, but we'll see where it goes." -- ESPN Bills reporter Alaina Getzenberg
Frank Reich wouldn't discuss his team's plans after it was announced Tuesday that Wentz was being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, but the coach addressed the topic on Monday and said the quarterbacks had been trying to follow their own protocols to stay safe.
"They've been kind of doing that in their own informal way," Reich said. "There have been times where we have all met together, but there's other times where normally the guys might be all watching tape together in the same room, and so there's less of that going on. Kind of like when we're not in a formal meeting, a lot of times the guys would be watching tape together, so we kind of minimize that." -- ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells
Bill Belichick didn't care to divulge specifics on how the Patriots have handled their COVID-19 plan with quarterbacks, but he spoke generally when he said: "We've tried to take the highest precautions that we can with everybody ... particularly the ones who aren't vaccinated."
The dynamics of the Patriots' QB situation led to the group having at least one quarterback separated from the rest during meetings. -- ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss
The Ravens are in virtual-meeting mode, so the quarterbacks are not in meetings together. Baltimore's top two quarterbacks -- Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley -- have had COVID-19 this season. In fact, the Ravens had to turn to Josh Johnson to start last Sunday, when Huntley tested positive for COVID-19 and Jackson was already out with an ankle injury. -- ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley
The Chargers returned to virtual meetings and news conferences this week as over a dozen players were put on the COVID-19 reserve list, although that number has dropped to 10. Backup quarterback Chase Daniel was on the list last week and was not available for the Chargers' loss to the Houston Texans, but he has since been activated.
"Yeah, we're keeping physical distance," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. "A lot of the meetings have been virtual. We're taking all of the precautions we can. I think the players ... are in their homes meeting over their phones or computers. They drive in for practice where everything is outside. We're trying to minimize their chances of getting it." -- ESPN Chargers reporter Shelley Smith
Raiders coach Rich Bisaccia didn't speak specifically about his quarterbacks, but he did say the team recently enhanced its precautions.
"[Director of team operations] Tom Jones rebuilt the new rooms in the back of the indoor facility on both sides," Bisaccia said. "The chairs are 3-5 yards apart, and guys have been wearing masks in the building. And we Zoomed a bunch at the end of last week as well.
"We kind of put ourselves into some type of an intensive protocol as early as last week, and we've followed through again going into this week. It's all over the league obviously. It's in multiple leagues, and we are going to deal with it like everybody else.
"We've talked about every week you seem to play with a different team, and you seem to be playing against a different team. Here we are again getting ready to play the Colts and we're preparing for multiple quarterbacks. We aren't 100 percent sure who we are going to see. So, it's become part of the norm." -- ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 13, and he wouldn't be subjected to another test until days before the Super Bowl, under the NFL's COVID-19 policy.
The Steelers are adhering to the protocols and will make adjustments as necessary to all position groups, but because Roethlisberger already had the virus, the Steelers don't have the same level of concern as some of the other teams. -- ESPN Steelers reporter Brooke Pryor
The Broncos have used social distancing for most of the season with the quarterbacks meeting in the team's indoor complex when they huddle with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula. The group sits far apart on a portion of the indoor field. The Broncos also use virtual meetings at times.
The team has kept its extra quarterback -- most often No. 3 QB Brett Rypien -- in virtual meetings all season, even if the others were meeting in person. The only time the third quarterback was with the others was on the practice field or briefly in the locker room before practice.
Broncos starter Teddy Bridgewater is currently in concussion protocol, but to this point in the season none of the team's quarterbacks has tested positive for COVID-19. -- ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold