Last summer, with the country in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cardinals navigated their way through all of training camp without placing any player on the reserve/COVID-19.
Wide receiver KeeSean Johnson broke the streak when he went on the list on Sept. 11, two days prior to the season opener against the 49ers. Throughout the season, the Cardinals had nine instances of players on the COVID list, one of the lowest totals in the league.
Washington had four, Seattle five, Houston, the Los Angeles Chargers and New York Jets eight and Dallas also had nine.
This year, the Cardinals weren’t as fortunate. With the delta variant resulting in a spike of cases, most to unvaccinated people, and rookies reporting Thursday, cornerback Lorenzo Burns was placed on reserve/COVID-19 Friday. After not being drafted this year, the Cardinals signed Burns on May 14.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Burns played 41 games at Arizona and during his career had 191 tackles, nine interceptions, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. He was the team defensive MVP in 2019 after a season in which he had four interceptions and seven passes defensed.
But Burns is not alone. On Thursday, two players were placed on reserve/COVID-19: New York Giants rookie wide receiver Kadarius Toney, a first-round draft choice, and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Jake Luton, a sixth-round pick in 2020.
Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead, who started all 16 games last season, was placed on the COVID list Friday along with Jaguars cornerbacks Luq Barcoo and C.J. Henderson. Unfortunately, that's not a surprise for the Jaguars. Last year, they had 34 instances of players placed on reserve/COVID-19, while the Miami Dolphins had 28 and the Buccaneers 18. Those 80 instances among Florida teams accounted for 14.7% of the 542 in the league during the entire season and starting in training camp.
The unknown is whether Burns or any of the other players has been vaccinated. Those players that test positive can exit isolation status after two negative tests 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated players are required to remain in quarantine for at least 10 days.
Vaccinated player totals have been increasing as players report to training camps. The league announced Friday morning that 80% of the nearly 2,900 players on rosters have begun the vaccination process by having at least one shot. Nine clubs have 90% or more players fully vaccinated while five teams are at less than 70%.
The league also said “virtually” 100% of the league’s Tier 1 coaches and Tier 2 staff have been fully vaccinated. However, ESPN reported Friday that Minnesota Vikings offensive line coach and run game coordinator Rick Dennison has left the team because he refused to be vaccinated. Dennison was entering his third season with the Vikings and 27th as a NFL assistant coach.
A club-issued statement Friday afternoon said, "The Vikings continue to hold discussions with Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison regarding the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocols for training camp and preseason games. At this time, Coach Dennison does not have an exemption to the vaccination requirements of those protocols. We will adhere to the requirements of the protocols and of applicable law."