The NFL is reducing isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days from 10.

The league and the NFL Players Association revised the protocols on Tuesday after the CDC changed its guidelines for those who are asymptomatic, recommending a five-day isolation period and masking over the second five days.

The changes could allow Colts quarterback Carson Wentz to return for Sunday’s key game against Las Vegas after Indianapolis placed him on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

It was not immediately clear whether Wentz tested positive for the virus or was deemed a close contact to someone else who had tested positive. However, if Wentz has no symptoms, he could be cleared to play.

In a memo sent to teams and obtained by The Associated Press, players and essential football personnel can return under the following conditions:

• Five days have passed since a positive COVID-19 test.

• At least 24 hours have passed since the individual last had a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.

• Other symptoms, including a cough, have resolved or improved.

• The club’s head primary care sports medicine physician, after consultation with Infection Control for Sports and notification of the NFL chief medical officer, determines that the individual may return to the club facility and interact with other club employees/contractors.

• Any local regulations or requirements are satisfied.

Fully vaccinated individuals may continue to “test out” of isolation sooner than five days after the positive test, and should stop testing at Day 5 and return under the updated guidance, assuming all other prerequisites have been satisfied.

Masks must be worn on the sideline and at all times except when playing and practicing for five days after return. Masks must be worn by all players and staff indoors at team facilities. Players and staff are not permitted to eat together. A limit of 15 people applies for weight rooms. Also, even fully vaccinated staff and players are encouraged to avoid public areas including restaurants, bars and social gatherings.

The timing couldn’t be worse for the Colts, who have rebounded from a 1-4 start to win eight of their past 10. They can clinch one of the seven AFC playoff spots with a win over the Raiders. Indy’s move comes one day after five players, including right tackle Braden Smith, were added to a rapidly expanding COVID-19 list.

Wentz’s backup is rookie Sam Ehlinger, who has played in three games but has not thrown a pass this season. He was a sixth-round draft pick. Veteran Brett Hundley and James Morgan are on Indy’s practice squad. Hundley has gone 3-6 as a starter during his NFL career.

Indy won Saturday at Arizona despite missing six starters because of COVID-19 and losing two more in the first half. The absences forced the Colts to play with only one of their five regular offensive line starters, Smith.

PATRIOTS: Rookie quarterback Mac Jones could be without his top backup against the Jaguars after veteran Brian Hoyer was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list, along with linebackers Josh Uche and Brandon King.

Hoyer, who is on his fourth stint in New England, has previously served in backup roles to Tom Brady and Cam Newton. He has been Jones’ backup for each of the first 15 games this season. If Hoyer is unavailable, 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham could move into that role. The promotion would come a little more than a month after Stidham was added back onto the active roster after starting the season on injured reserve with a back injury. He has appeared in eight career games.

Hoyer, Uche and King make it five Patriots players who have been added to the COVID-19 list in two days. Linebackers Matt Judon and Ja’Whaun Bentley, two of the Patriots most productive defensive players, were added Monday. While New England has some depth at linebacker, Judon has been its best pass rusher and leads the team with 12 1/2 sacks.

TITANS: Tennessee, who can clinch the AFC South with either a win or a Colts’ loss, added two more to the reserve/COVID-19 listi n linebacker Jayon Brown and practice squad receiver Cody Hollister, who has played three of the past four games including one start. That brings the Titans’ total to nine, not counting a 10th player out for the season on injured reserve.

BUCS: Coach Bruce Arians has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently isolating at home.

The team said that assistant head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin will serve as interim head coach in Arians’ absence. The reigning Super Bowl champions visit the New York Jets on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Bucs also placed cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That increases the number of Tampa Bay players on the list to five.

PACKERS: The Green Bay Packers placed tight end Marcedes Lewis and linebacker Oren Burks on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That comes one day after the Packers placed guard Ben Braden, linebacker Tipa Galeai, wide receiver/punt returner Amari Rodgers and linebacker Ty Summers on the reserve/COVID-19 list and put defensive lineman R.J. McIntosh on the practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list.

BENGALS: Cincinnati placed wide receiver Auden Tate on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Tate hasn’t played since Week 7 and is on injured reserve because of a calf injury.

JAGUARS: Jacksonville lined up eight interviews for its head coaching vacancy Tuesday, including five coordinators who are headed to the playoffs.

The Jaguars requested permission to interview: both Dallas coordinators, Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn; both Tampa Bay coordinators, Byron Leftwich and Todd Bowles; and Green Bay offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. They also requested a sit-down with Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on the first day teams with vacancies can start the hiring process.

Jacksonville also plans to interview two former NFL head coaches, Jim Caldwell (Detroit, Indianapolis) and Doug Pederson (Philadelphia).

Four of the eight have NFL head coaching experience: Caldwell, Pederson, Bowles (New York Jets) and Quinn (Atlanta).

The Jaguars fired Urban Meyer with cause after only 13 games following a series of mishaps that contributed to his 2-11 record.

• The Jaguars placed three more players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: tight end Jacob Hollister, defensive tackle Jay Tufele and linebacker Damien Wilson. That brings the team’s total to 19 players on the list, including eight defensive linemen and four tight ends.

STEELERS: Mike Tomlin is well aware of the issues plaguing his team’s offense.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach doesn’t believe the game planning by first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada is part of the problem.

Tomlin said he has no issues with Canada’s approach but added it’s imperative for the Steelers (7-7-1) to get off to better starts if they want to have any chance to reach the playoffs.

“I have no reservations about the play-calling component of his job and what he’s done,” Tomlin said before adding there is a learning curve when it comes to calling plays at the collegiate level – as Canada has done at places such as Pitt and LSU – and the NFL.

Canada’s learning curve likely needs to flatten out quickly. Pittsburgh hasn’t scored a first-half offensive touchdown since before Thanksgiving and has fallen behind by 17 points in four of its past six games, including spotting Kansas City a 30-0 lead in a blowout road loss last Sunday.

There have been times this season when the offense has been able to find a rhythm when it goes up-tempo, a move that gives quarterback Ben Roethlisberger a little more flexibility in terms of calling things at the line of scrimmage.

The 39-year-old could be playing in his final game at Heinz Field next Monday night against Cleveland (7-8). Asked if he would consider just “handing Roethlisberger the keys”, Tomlin said he’s “not opposed to that” but added Roethlisberger is already heavily involved.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.