NEW YORK — New York Jets Coach Robert Saleh cleared COVID-19 protocols and returned to the facility Wednesday to run practice for the first time since testing positive for the coronavirus last week.

Saleh sat out the team’s 26-21 victory over Jacksonville last Sunday, forced to watch from a hotel room while tight ends coach Ron Middleton assumed the head coaching duties.

Saleh tested positive last Wednesday after feeling symptoms, but still participated in remote team meetings. He was cleared Tuesday night and thrilled to be back Wednesday at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey.

“It’s like the first day of school,” Saleh said with a laugh. “I’m ready to go another 18 weeks.”

The Jets had as many as 25 players – on the active and practice squad rosters, and injured reserve – on the COVID-19 list as of Tuesday, and got back nine after they also cleared COVID-19 protocols. The NFL reduced the isolation time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days from 10.

• The Minnesota Vikings returned running back Dalvin Cook from the COVID-19 list ahead of their crucial game at Green Bay, but wide receiver Adam Thielen will be out after being placed on injured reserve.


Cook was sidelined for Minnesota’s loss to the Rams last week. He was able to take advantage of the NFL’s new shortened isolation rule, forcing asymptomatic players to sit out only five days, half of the previous requirement. Cook is unvaccinated and declined to discuss that subject when asked Wednesday before practice.

Thielen sprained his left ankle on the opening drive at Detroit on Dec. 5. He returned against the Rams after missing two games, but aggravated the injury twice and barely played in the second half. Thielen must sit out a minimum of three games, meaning the Vikings would have to make the playoffs and win a first-round matchup for him to have an opportunity to play again this season. The 31-year-old Thielen had 726 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2021.

The Vikings (7-8) play the Packers (12-3) on Sunday night. They’re in eighth place in the NFC, one game behind San Francisco and Philadelphia. The 49ers and Eagles currently hold the final two wild-card spots.

• The Chiefs no longer have any players on the COVID-19 list after activating tight end Travis Kelce, linebacker Nick Bolton, right tackle Lucas Niang, cornerback Rashad Fenton, kicker Harrison Butker and punter Tommy Townsend in time to return to practice.

At one point last week, the Chiefs had an outbreak that landed 16 players on the reserve list. A few returned in time for their 36-10 throttling of the Steelers on Sunday, and the rest should be available this Sunday in Cincinnati.

Kansas City has clinched the AFC West and will be trying to maintain its grasp on the No. 1 seed and first-round playoff bye. The Bengals will be trying to clinch the AFC North with a win over the Chiefs.


• Buffalo also had a few key players activated from the COVID-19 list, including two of its top wide receivers in Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis, right guard Jon Feliciano and defensive end A.J. Epenesa.

• Jacksonville placed five more players on the COVID-19 list, bringing the team’s total to 24. The five latest: left tackle Cam Robinson, returner Jaydon Mickers, safety Rudy Ford, receiver Josh Hammond and linebacker Dylan Moses.

• The Denver Broncos placed safety Caden Sterns, offensive tackle Calvin Anderson, wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland and wide receiver Tim Patrick on reserve/COVID-19 list. Coach Vic Fangio says with new NFL protocols, he’s expecting to get defensive lineman Mike Purcell back from the virus list for Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Chargers.

• Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list. That leaves two offensive lineman, and only one starter right guard Nate Davis on the list and nine total from active roster.

• The Patriots returned running back Rhamondre Stevenson and linebacker Harvey Langi from the COVID-19 list. They have six still on the list: QB Brian Hoyer, linebacker Matt Judon, defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche and Brandon King.

• The Carolina Panthers added linebacker Haason Reddick and QB P.J. Walker to the COVID-19 list and offensive linemen Pat Elflein, OL Dennis Daley were taken off the list.


• The Cleveland Browns placed QB Nick Mullens on practice squad/COVID-19 list.

• Miami activated tight end Cethan Carter, cornerback Justin Coleman, guard Robert Jones, offensive lineman Greg Mancz and linebacker Duke Riley off the list. The team placed center Spencer Pulley on the practice squad/COVID-19 list.

• Green Bay placed S Henry Black, P Corey Bojorquez, TE Tyler Davis and DL Kingsley Keke on the COVID-19 list.

• Arizona activated punter Andy Lee from the list.

COLTS: Coach  Frank Reich may not know if starting quarterback Carson Wentz can play until Sunday.

He’s not even sure who else could be cleared by the medical staff if they’re activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list.


All the uncertainty has left the Colts in a bind. Less than 24 hours after NFL officials announced a reduction in how much time vaccinated or unvaccinated players must sit out if they test positive for the virus and remain asymptomatic, Indy activated five players including offensive guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski. More players could join them on the practice field in the next few days.

Now Reich is installing contingency game plans as he waits to see who might be available against Las Vegas.

“His fifth day would be Sunday and in theory would be available for the game – if he clears,” Reich said, referring to Wentz before Wednesday’s practice. “In the meantime, he’ll be in meetings virtual, preparing so if he does clear, he can play. At this point, Sam (Ehlinger) is our starter. We’ll proceed accordingly with him as our starter, and we’ll adapt and adjust as needed and as warranted.”

PANTHERS: Coach Matt Rhule says Sam Darnold will start at quarterback on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints instead of 2015 league MVP Cam Newton.

Newton is 0-5 as Carolina’s starting quarterback this year and has lost 13 straight starts as the Panthers’ starting QB dating back to the 2018 season. Newton won seven games in 2020 during a one-year stint with the New England Patriots.

“Sam has been working hard to get back,” Rhule said. “He played well in this ballgame the first time (they played the Saints) and I thought he did some good things last week” in a 32-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.


The Panthers (5-10) were eliminated from playoff contention last week.

Darnold started the season 3-0 after being acquired from the New York Jets for three draft picks, but has a 1-5 record in his last six starts.

PACKERS: Aaron Rodgers says he won’t drag out any offseason decisions regarding his future with the Green Bay Packers.

Rodgers, 38, said he would make a decision after talking to his loved ones as well as team officials such as CEO/President Mark Murphy, GM Brian Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball.

Rodgers said he hadn’t ruled out anything, whether it be returning to Green Bay next year, trying to play elsewhere, or even retiring. Rodgers has spent his entire career with the Packers, who selected him with the 24th overall pick in the 2005 draft.

Rodgers’ contract was restructured last summer, making it likely the Packers will either extend him or trade him before the 2022 season due to salary cap considerations. Wide receiver Davante Adams, a 2020 All-Pro, has an expiring contract and says Rodgers’ situation could factor into his own decision.


RAVENS: QB Lamar Jackson returned to practice, raising hopes that he’ll be ready to return for Sunday’s pivotal game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson hasn’t practiced since the Ravens’ Week 14 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 12, when he was carted off the field with an ankle injury. He was also inactive for the Ravens’ past two games, losses to the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals.

However, Jackson was clearly hobbled in the 20 minutes of practice open to the media.

49ERS: Jimmy Garoppolo won’t need surgery on his injured right thumb despite a chip of the bone and a torn ligament.

It remains unclear if he will be able to start at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers this week.

Garoppolo played through the injury during a loss last Thursday night at Tennessee and planned to test out the thumb on Wednesday in hopes he would be able to play for the 49ers (8-7) on Sunday against Houston when they have a chance to clinch a playoff spot.

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