Four days after the team announced their positive COVID-19 test, Bucs coach Bruce Arians returned to work and was scheduled to fly with the team this afternoon for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game against the Jets.
The team also activated cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting from the reserve / COVID-19 list. The couple, placed on the list on Tuesday, will not travel with the team to New Jersey, but the organization will arrange private flights for the two.
They were officially added to the team’s injury report, where they were listed as questionable. Receivers coach Kevin Garver, who also tested positive earlier in the week, has also joined the squad.
The early return of Arians, Garver and the two corners was made possible by the NFL’s amended COVID-19 protocol.
In line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation to shorten the isolation period for people infected with the coronavirus from 10 days to five days (if asymptomatic), the NFL now allows the return of vaccinated and unvaccinated players after five days. .
Additionally, the team bred four players – punter Sterling Hofrichter, outside linebacker Elijah Ponder, running back Kenjon Barner and wide receiver Cyril Grayson – from the practice squad. All are eligible to play on Sunday.
Hofrichter, an Armwood High alumnus, will kick for the second game in a row in place of veteran Bradley Pinion, on the reserve / COVID-19 roster. Barner is expected to take on the return duties for the second game in a row in place of Jaelon Darden, also on the roster. Ponder adds depth to a unit missing starters Jason Pierre-Paul (rotator cuff) and Shaquil Barrett (knee).
While Dean and Murphy-Bunting haven’t been training all week, both should play to some extent. Arians, however, praised the depth created at the position following a myriad of injuries. Starter Carlton Davis remains in good health and Pierre Desir, Dee Delaney, Ross Cockrell and Rashard Robinson remain on the active roster.
Grayson, who just finished a career game last weekend at Carolina (three catches, 81 yards), offers depth to an exhausted receiving unit. Chris Godwin (ACL tear) is out for the season, while the game day status of Mike Evans (hamstrings) and Antonio Brown (ankle) remains uncertain.
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