By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — 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 decision made Tuesday by the league and the NFL Players Association came 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 team announced backup quarterback Joe Flacco, tight end Kenny Yeboah, defensive linemen Folorunso Fatukasi, Jonathan Marshall and Tanzel Smart, linebackers Hamsah Nasirildeen and Noah Dawkins, and cornerbacks Michael Carter II and Lamar Jackson were expected to practice Wednesday. Smart, Dawkins and Jackson were restored to the practice squad.
Saleh added the Jets are hopeful wide receiver Vyncint Smith, guards Alijah Vera-Tucker and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, defensive linemen John Franklin-Myers and Hamilcar Rashed Jr., and safety Ashtyn Davis will clear COVID-19 protocols later in the week and be able to play against Tampa Bay on Sunday.
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 Wednesday.
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.
— Indianapolis activated standout guard Quenton Nelson, fellow guard Mark Glowinski, defensive end Kemoko Turay and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin from the COVID-19 list. The team also activated tight end Farrod Green from the practice squad list and placed quarterback James Morgan and tight end Eli Wolf on that list.
— 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.
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