Stroke of Luck? Cardinals Have Zero Players on Reserve/COVID-19

Howard Balzer

As NFL teams strapped on their helmets this week for the first time since the end of the 2019 season, the overall news was generally good.

In the last six days, only seven players were placed on reserve/COVID-19 and 29 were activated, leaving only 26 of the 108 placed on reserve since camp started still unable to participate. Many of those were because they had contact with an infected person, not because they tested positive.

Through Tuesday, the NFL reported that 109,075 tests had been administered on players, coaches and staff and that a total of only 0.46 percent were positive and 0.81 percent of those being players. Daily testing, first agreed to for the first two weeks of training camp, has now been extended through at least Sept. 5.

The Cardinals are one of five teams that have yet to have anyone placed on reserve/COVID-19. The others are Carolina, Houston, the Los Angeles Chargers and New England.

In a videoconference Wednesday after the team’s first practice of the ramp-up period prior to pads going on next week, head coach Kliff Kingsbury said it was “good fortune, first and foremost.” He added, “We understand we're going to have our issues with that. That's just part of the climate that we're in right now as a world. But (trainer) Tom Reed, and our medical personnel have done a tremendous job of making our players feel comfortable with the protocols. It's making sure everything's in place, easily accessible. And then our guys have done a nice job with what's there. I'm hoping that that continues, knowing that we'll have some issues and some rough spots, but I like where it's heading.”

Linebacker Devon Kennard agreed, saying, “We're lucky to be one of the teams that hasn't had anyone (on reserve). But our protocols are great and it's up to us to keep it that way. You can never get comfortable. The moment you start to get comfortable in this, that's when it can start to slip so hopefully that stays the case. I hope at the end of the year we can say the same thing and we have no positives.”

Third-year receiver Christian Kirk believes it might be more than luck. He said, “I think it just says a lot about the character in the locker room and the guys that we have on this team. The maturity level is very high. When you look on our roster, just the type of guys we have and everybody just buying in because we all want to play football and that's been the main goal for us. We know the talent that we have on our team and we know what we can do if we are able to optimize and come together. We've all said it many times, teams around the league have said it that teams that handle this the best are the ones that are going to be the most successful and we want to be one of those teams.

“So everybody's really bought into all the protocols. The organization has done a great job making everybody feeling safe and just coming in, doing our tests and just limiting any type of contact and following all the social distancing rules. I think if we can be consistent, which we already have so far, I think we will be able to be on the same track that we have already started with.”

What truly impressed Kirk was that “when we're in walk-throughs, everybody wears a mask. Nobody's out there without a mask. So everybody's done a good job. And it goes to show because we haven't had any positive tests. If we can just keep following those guidelines and follow the plan that's in place, I think we'll be alright.”

Kingsbury also likes what he’s seen from his players.

He said, “These guys are professionals. They're grown men. If you tell them to do something once, they got it down. The masks are just part of what we do every day now. We remind them that they hit their COVID exam around lunch every day or whatever time they're scheduled for, but these guys have handled their business so far.”

Finally, he was asked if this season of being so different than normal will result in an underlying uneasiness all season.

Kingsbury agreed and said it can be a good thing.

“I think we all need to keep that feeling, that uneasiness,” he said. “I think it keeps us prepared, taking the proper precautions and never really letting up because it's going to be a constant battle to stay COVID-free as an organization. And so I expect there will always be kind of that underlying thought of, ‘Hey fellas, even though we've done well thus far, we've got to stay on top of it.’ And that's everybody in this country, in this world right now.”

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