INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts have a significant COVID-19 situation on their hands.
Indianapolis placed starting quarterback Carson Wentz, Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly and starting wide receiver Zach Pascal on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Veteran left tackle Eric Fisher was already on the list after testing positive last week, and the Colts just activated All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson off the reserve/COVID-19 list after he spent five days there as a close contact.
How much time Wentz, Kelly and Pascal miss depends on the reason they were put on the list. A player placed on the list to be a close friend must miss five days. Only an unvaccinated player may be considered a close friend. A player who tests positive could miss up to 10 days, depending on vaccination status.
NFL Network reported all three players were close contacts with a team staff member who tested positive.
NFL PRESEASON WINNERS, LOSERS: Who helped themselves the most in final tune-ups?
Wentz did not respond when he was asked early in camp if he’s vaccinated, saying only that it’s personal.
The Colts have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the NFL; Indianapolis is at roughly 75%, according to Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich.
Reich, Colts general manager Chris Ballard and team owner Jim Irsay have all repeatedly said they believe that every player should be vaccinated, but Reich admitted recently that new vaccinations have “leveled off.”
The Indianapolis head coach also admitted on Friday night that the team’s low vaccination rate puts the team at risk of losing players for a game simply by being close contacts.
“I don’t like to play that card, but it is what it is,” Reich said. It does. It shows that a player can be a close contact and not have it, but that can happen in a lot of different ways.”
Wentz’s placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list creates a significant problem for the Colts.
The Colts’ starter underwent surgery early in training camp to remove a loose piece of bone from his foot, and he only returned to practice last week, playing in 7-on-7 drills, although he did not do full 11-on-11 work.
“Go through multiple days in a row of padded practices and be completely full, where you’re not limited, where you’re taking every rep of a full practice, like, say, a normal Wednesday and Thursday practice for us,” Wentz said.
Wentz was supposed to get that 11-on-11 work in practice this week.
“We structured this week so that tomorrow we’ll have a normal practice,” Reich said Sunday. “He’ll be in group period. We will see how he reacts to being in a team for one day. The next day will be a walkthrough, so Quenton and he can have a day there. We will then have a day in pads Wednesday and a shorter practice Thursday. This will be a big week to determine where those two guys are.”
Wentz isn’t likely to participate in any of those practices now.
Even if he is a close contact, Wentz will not be able to practice for at least five days.
A little more than two weeks remain before the start of the regular season, and COVID-19 has now affected five of the Colts’ most important players, a problem that Irsay, Ballard and Reich have all admitted in one way or the other this season.
But the team is not allowed to mandate vaccinations of its players due to the agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA, and it is up to the players to make decisions.
“We’ll continue to educate the players,” Reich said. Reich stated, “I still respect and greatly respect the decision each player makes. We will continue to educate and offer any advice we can. We recommend that every player should be vaccinated, but we respect the individual choice.”