The NFL and the NFL Players Association on Tuesday adopted the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that would reduce the quarantine time to five days from 10 days for all players, including those who are unvaccinated, if they are asymptomatic or at least demonstrating that their symptoms are improving, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.
Wentz tested positive, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Wentz would still be able to play on Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders as long as the positive test took place Monday and he is asymptomatic or demonstrates his symptoms are improving under the new protocols.
Wentz has not shed light on why he remains unvaccinated. He missed some time before the start of the regular season because he was a close contact to someone who tested positive in the Colts’ organization.
“I’m not going to go into depth on why, but I will say it’s a personal decision for me and my family,” Wentz said in early September. “I respect everybody else’s decision, and I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that’s not the world we live in, not everyone is going to equally view things the same, but yeah, no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s household and how things are being handled. It’s a personal decision. That’s just where I’m at on it and with the protocols and everything the way they are, really for us, it’s about understanding them clearly and making sure that we are dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s.”
If Wentz can’t play, rookie Sam Ehlinger, barring the Colts bringing in a quarterback from the outside or going with practice squad quarterback Brett Hundley, will start against the Raiders. Ehlinger missed the start of the regular season because of a knee injury suffered in a preseason game at Detroit. His most extensive playing time has been in the final minutes of games that have already been decided.
“Going through the plan, he goes through it, what are your top calls that you feel comfortable with, doesn’t have to be all of them,” Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said about Ehlinger before Wentz’s announcement Tuesday. “We have that separate call sheet for him ready to go. He goes through all the reads like Carson does. He’s ready to go.”
The Colts, like many other teams around the NFL, have been hit hard with players going on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wentz is the 15th player currently on the list for the Colts. Linebacker Darius Leonard, guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski, right tackle Braden Smith, safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin are other starters currently out because of COVID-19. Leonard, Nelson and Smith were all unvaccinated as of earlier this season.
“This is what we prepare for, for hitting adversity like this, things you don’t expect but this is probably in the category of something that we could expect and that it would just be a matter of time before it was going to hit us,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “So, we just need to continue to focus at a very high level. Can’t allow this to be a distraction, understand how important it is and let’s just stay focused on what we have to do.”
The Colts (9-6), winners of eight of their past 10 games, are currently the fifth seed in the AFC playoff race. Only one game separates the fifth and 11th seed in the AFC. The Colts can lock up a playoff spot with a victory over the Raiders on Sunday.
“The playoff race is close, and I feel like the teams that can handle the COVID-19 situation are going to be the ones that are gonna be able … to get into the playoffs,” Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said after Saturday’s victory over Arizona. “Key players all around the league are out. It’s all about depth.”