It turns out the Eagles got a head start on intensive coronavirus protocols.
After spending last week holding virtual meetings and wearing face shields during practice because a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus, the Eagles learned that the entire league will be following the protocols for the rest of the season. The rule, announced by the NFL on Wednesday, will go into effect on Saturday because of the concerning spike in COVID-19 cases nationwide.
“The upcoming holidays, beginning with Thanksgiving next week, will introduce new risks of exposure that we need to address now,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo to teams released by NFL Network. “Recent experience has highlighted the importance of minimizing high-risk close contacts; on multiple occasions, we have seen individuals identified on that basis test positive within a short time. We have also seen many instances in which effective action by clubs to minimize these close contacts prevented the virus from spreading within the club, and avoided players or coaches being ruled out of practice or games.”
Avonte Maddox, fresh off the practice field Wednesday afternoon, hadn’t heard the news when a reporter asked for his reaction.
“We’re going under the what?” Maddox asked, before saying, “I haven’t heard about that one yet, but COVID is of course a huge thing, and you gotta do whatever it takes to stay safe and be here to play this game.”
Eagles safety Marcus Epps is the only Eagles player to come down with the virus during the season, and he’s been on the COVID-19/Reserve list for the last two weeks. Matt Pryor missed a game after being placed on the list, but it was because of an exposure outside of the building rather than a positive test.
Doug Pederson, Lane Johnson, and Nate Gerry all tested positive for the virus before the start of the season. Eagles’ director of player personnel and senior defensive assistant Jeremiah Washburn also missed the Giants game Sunday because of an illness.
The guidelines bring a handful of changes, including a requirement that each position group gets only about 15 minutes in the locker room before and after practice, and all meetings are held virtually.
“Going back into that, we know what to expect,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “We know the different ways we gotta prepare because everything is virtual. And just obviously being a lot [more] connected when we’re doing those virtual meetings. Obviously there’s more questions to ask when you’re in a virtual meeting. You just have to understand it and kind of get everything, the game plan, kind of on the fly.”
The Eagles injury report Wednesday was as short as it’s been in months. Just two players, Shaun Bradley (illness) and Rudy Ford (hamstring), missed practice. Cox and Jason Peters were limited in practice for rest. Cox was also limited last week for rest, and the 29-year-old acknowledged it’s a trend.
“I just do what I’m told around here,” Cox said. “All of the Wednesdays you see me come up [on the injury report].”
Zach Ertz, who is still on injured reserve, returned to practice Wednesday after missing a month with an ankle injury. He participated in position drills during the portion of practice open to the media.
The Eagles have three weeks to activate Ertz to the active roster. Coach Doug Pederson said they’ll see how he handles practice this week before deciding if he’s ready for this Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns.