The Washington Football Team's top two quarterbacks, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, are currently on the team's reserve/COVID-19 list. And, should that remain the case in two days, neither signal-caller will be able to suit up for Washington's Week 15 contest against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday.
However, Washington head coach Ron Rivera said on Sunday that both Heinicke and Allen are "trending up," with the hope that at least one of the club's quarterbacks will be able to clear protocols ahead of Tuesday's game -- a matchup that was originally scheduled Sunday but postponed due to Washington's COVID-19 outbreak.
“Well, I do know, having seen the numbers, that they're trending up," Rivera said. "That's a good thing. But this is a tricky thing. It's a health matter. And, depending on how things go in the next 24-36 hours, we’ll know even more.”
This past Friday, the NFL updated its COVID-19 protocols due to the emergence of the Omicron variant -- the newest strain of the virus that is more contagious than previous strains, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The new protocols are designed to allow vaccinated, asymptomatic players to return to the field quicker than before. It's worth noting that Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, highlighted that many Omicron cases have produced milder symptoms than previous variants as a reason for the change.
As part of the new protocols in place, players that are positive for COVID-19 will also have their viral load monitored. In layman's terms, viral load shows how much of the virus each person is carrying in its body. If that number reaches 35, that player can return to the team, even if the test result is still technically positive.
By saying both Heinicke and Allen are "trending up," Rivera is likely referring to both Allen and Heinicke's viral load improving.
If neither Allen nor Heinicke are able to clear protocols in time for Tuesday's game, Washington has a trio of quarterbacks it can turn to: Pat Shurmur, Garrett Gilbert and Jordan Ta'amu. Shurmur has spent the majority of the season on Washington's practice squad, while Garrett was signed to the active roster this week. Ta'amu, who was signed to the practice squad, joined the club this week as well.
Although Rivera did not commit to a starter should Heinicke and Allen remain out, the belief is that Gilbert would get the nod based on his past experience in offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system in Carolina. Gilbert is the only one of Washington's three new quarterbacks with NFL experience, too.
"I thought the quarterbacks had a good day today. I thought Garrett did a nice job," Rivera said Sunday. "I thought he handled the wind pretty well. It's pretty windy out there. For the most part, the quarterbacks had to throw into it. I thought the quarterbacks did a good job.”
Rivera additionally gave encouraging remarks about Shurmur, who has been with the team since mid-September.
"I think he's doing a nice job with preparation and getting himself ready, just in case," Rivera said.
As of Sunday at 2:15 p.m., Washington had 16 players still on the reserve/COVID-19 list. However, the team has activated a total of nine players from the list since Saturday, a good sign moving forward.
In what has been a whirlwind week for Washington, Rivera is proud of his team for limiting the distractions and doing its best to remain focused on Tuesday's game against Philadelphia -- a crucial contest for two 6-7 clubs fighting for one of the final NFC Wild Card playoff spots.
“I don't think it's been much of a distraction for our guys," Rivera said. "I know the one thing is that with it, we've gotten some guys back off the list. So that's been a plus. I think some guys have handled it pretty well. The extra days, I think our guys have taken advantage of that.”