Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, cornerback Charvarius Ward and kicker Harrison Butker were placed on the NFL's reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday, putting their status for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in question.
Adam Schefter of ESPN notes that Kelce, who is vaccinated, could have a chance to return to play in time for the Chiefs' matchup with the Steelers in line with the NFL's recently updated return-to-play protocols. These new protocols would also apply to other vaccinated players.
The NFL's updated protocols follow an explosion of positive COVID cases around the league and provide vaccinated players with a shorter path to return to the field after testing positive.
On Thursday, the NFL announced that vaccinated players and staff who are asymptomatic for at least 24 hours can return as soon as the day after their initial positive test from one of the league‘s three options outlined in the memo.
Players can receive two PCR test results that are either negative or produce Cycle Threshold values of 35 or greater. Secondly, a player or team staff member can receive one PCR test result that is either negative or produces CT values of 35 or greater and a negative Mesa test result from a test taken within 24 hours of the PCR test. Both tests can be taken at the same time or less than 24 hours apart.
Thirdly, a player of staff member can receive two negative Mesa test results that may be taken concurrently but must be two separate swabs.
Kelce, Ward and Butker join Chiefs teammates Chris Jones, Willie Gay Jr. and Josh Gordon on KC's reserve/COVID list.
Nate Taylor of The Athletic tweeted that the team "is optimistic" that Kelce, Jones, Gay and Gordon could all be available against the Steelers on Sunday. Taylor quotes a source saying, "no major symptoms."
Sam McDowell of The Kansas City Star tweeted that Kelce, Ward and Butker have not "reported more than mild symptoms as of now."
Last week, the Chiefs added kicker Elliott Fry to their practice squad last week and signed him to the active roster after Butker's placement on the reserve list.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweeted that all 51 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list today tested positive for the virus, indicating that Kelce, Ward and Butker all had positive tests. Pete Sweeney of Arrowhead Pride tweeted that "all have a shot to play, except for Butker," potentially indicating Butker's vaccination status.
Kelce is in the midst of yet another record-setting year, and his placement on the reserve/COVID list comes shortly after his best game of the season, a 10-reception, 191-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday Night Football, including a walk-off touchdown to seal the game in overtime. Kelce finished Thursday's game with 1,066 yards on the season, recording his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season.
Ward and Butker are both in the midst of strong seasons as well, with Ward holding his spot as one of the Chiefs' starting outside cornerbacks and Butker making an argument for consideration among the NFL's best kickers.