The Washington Football Team could be without several key players for Sunday's NFC East clash with the Dallas Cowboys in what many believe is Washington's most important home game in years.
The biggest news of the day for Washington emerged before practice on Wednesday, as star pass rusher Montez Sweat was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list and will miss Sunday's game.
Sweat, who has missed the past four games with a jaw fracture, was expected to return to practice this week for Washington. Now, since he is unvaccinated, Sweat will miss a minimum of 10 days, meaning the earliest Washington can activate him is next Saturday -- one day before its game against Philadelphia.
"This time of year, with the potential of the breakthroughs and all that, it's just frustrating," head coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday. "It really is. It's just the unfortunate part. But, we're OK. We're going to be fine. I like our guys. I'm looking forward to Sunday."
Sweat's placement onto the COVID list was far from the only big news to come out of Ashburn before practice on Wednesday. The team announced that standout tight end Logan Thomas has been placed on Injured Reserve -- a move that will officially end Thomas' season, as it's the second time he's been placed on IR this season.
The initial belief was that Thomas tore his ACL during Washington's win over the Raiders, but Rivera said on Monday that there's a chance his tight end avoided serious injury. On Wednesday, Rivera reaffirmed that belief but said Thomas still has more testing to do.
"[The doctors are] going to continue to keep an eye on it," Rivera said. "I do know that they're going to have one more doctor look at it. They feel pretty good about it. That's the best part. But I don't know a lot of the details other than that they're feeling good about it so far."
While the diagnosis of Thomas' injury is still not fully known, Rivera and his staff made the decision to place him on IR -- and end the tight end's season -- as a way of looking out for Thomas' long-term health.
"The thing you got to be careful with is bringing a guy like him back too soon," Rivera said. "Talking and listening to the doctors, so far, we felt this was probably the best move for him going forward. This is really about the player's welfare going forward."
With Thomas sidelined for the remainder of 2021, Rivera said the team is confident in the rest of the tight end group to carry the load. The head coach said Wednesday he's been impressed the development of rookies John Bates and Sammis Reyes, while veteran Ricky Seals-Jones is expected to return to the lineup this week with a hip injury.
In a corresponding move to placing Thomas on IR, Washington signed running back Jonathan Williams to its active roster. The decision to sign another running back over a tight end had to do with running back Wendell Smallwood, who is "sore" following Sunday's game, Rivera said.
Smallwood isn't the only running back dealing with an injury for Washington, either. J.D. McKissic did not practice on Wednesday as he remains in the concussion protocol. McKissic did not play in Washington's Week 13 victory over the Raiders, either.
A new injury arose for Washington this week, too, as rookie linebacker Jamin Davis entered the concussion protocol after reporting symptoms following Sunday's game. Davis played 90% of defensive snaps last week. His status for Sunday's game is questionable as of now, as the rookie must clear protocol before being activated again.
"We'll follow the rules as we go through it," Rivera said on Davis.
Besides Davis and McKissic, either safety Landon Collins (foot) and offensive lineman Wes Schweitzer (ankle) were able to practice on Wednesday. Rivera did not address either player's status post-practice, but he did say earlier in the week the team was hoping Collins would return on Wednesday.
It wasn't all bad news for Washington, though, as wideout Curtis Samuel was able to participate in a limited fashion. Samuel has missed all but three games this season with a groin injury, one that is still bothering him to some degree. Even so, Rivera did not seem concerned about Samuel's status for Sunday's game and moving forward.
"With Curtis, it's about managing his workload more than anything else," the head coach said.
Although Washington is dealing with numerous injuries entering its biggest game of the season, Rivera does not want it to be an excuse.
"This is not an excuse. You're a professional. You're paid just like everyone else," Rivera said. "We expect you to give us your best. We emphasize that to our guys and they believe that."
Entering Sunday's game vs. Dallas, Washington is riding high following four straight wins. The club now controls its own playoff destiny with five NFC East games to close out the season. Rivera expects all his players that will be suiting up to be ready for the opportunity and to take advantage of it.
"This is your opportunity. You're the next man up," Rivera said. "We talk about that and it's stressed to them. They understand, 'This is my chance. This is my challenge.' They have to be ready to accept it."