The Eagles, who are grappling with a coronavirus situation of their own, got a huge competitive break Friday when the Cleveland Browns announced that their best player, defensive end Myles Garrett, has been placed on the COVID-19 reserve list and will not play Sunday against the Birds.
Obviously, the main concern is Garrett’s well-being, but the effect on Sunday’s game could be significant.
The Browns have been in the NFL’s intensive protocols for two weeks, as a staff member tested positive and several players have served quarantine time because of close contacts. But Garrett was being held out of practice this week as a precaution, because he wasn’t feeling well. Until Friday, there was no indication that he would have to miss the game. The Browns then announced that a player had tested positive, but did not name him. Then they placed Garrett on the list. The NFL Network reported that his was the positive test.
Garrett, who turns 25 next month, was drafted first overall in 2017. He leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks. The Browns play him mostly on the left side, where he would have been facing sore-ankled Lane Johnson, but in some passing situations they move him to the right, which would have meant a matchup with 38-year-old Jason Peters.
“He’s a tremendous football player,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday. “He’s definitely in the discussions for defensive player of the year, he’s having a heck of a season. A leader on that football team. So, I can’t speak specifically on their behalf, but I know if it was obviously one of our players in that situation, it’s a blow, but you know what? Just like us, the next guy steps up, the next guy has to play, the next guy’s gonna be prepared, he’s gonna play hard. Listen, there’s 10 other guys on that defense that can also play and it’s a good defense. We’ve gotta be ready.”
On Thursday, the Eagles placed wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, running back Corey Clement and defensive end Vinny Curry on the COVID-19 reserve list, and placed wide receiver Deontay Burnett on the practice squad COVID-19 reserve list. Only Arcega-Whiteside is believed to have tested positive. Wide receiver John Hightower has been held out of practice this week but has not been put on the reserve list. The Eagles got safety Marcus Epps back this week, two weeks after his positive test, which put the team in the NFL’s intensive protocols.
The NFL announced this week that with positive tests surging, the entire league will adopt the intensive protocols starting Saturday. This means that all meetings must be conducted virtually and that time in common areas such as the weight room and locker room will be curtailed.