NFL COVID-19 tracker, Week 18: Justin Fields among 75-plus players on COVID list; Steelers activate 2 starters

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to interrupt the NFL season. There were 521 players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list from Dec. 1-27, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, and 476 of those came on or after Dec. 13. (For context, 428 players went on COVID reserve all of last season, Sept. 1 to Super Bowl LV).

But since the NFL and NFLPA adopted new COVID protocols on Dec. 28 — reducing the mandated quarantine for positive players from 10 to five days — the number of players on COVID reserve has been declining, going from more than 230 last week to fewer than 80 as of Saturday afternoon.

That’s not to say every team will avoid COVID disruptions as the NFL enters the final week of the regular season and then gears up for the playoffs. On Monday, several Eagles starters were among 12 players placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. On Tuesday, the Bengals added four players, including Pro Bowl edge rusher Trey Hendrickson. But under the new rules, all of these players will be able to return for their team’s game this weekend (if healthy).

Some of the biggest names to go on COVID reserve this week came Wednesday, when the Bengals added Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon, the Steelers added veteran cornerback Joe Haden and the Cowboys added rookie phenom Micah Parsons. Mixon will be out Sunday vs. the Browns, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, as will Parsons for Saturday night’s game against the Eagles, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Fortunately for Cincinnati and Dallas, they have already clinched playoff spots and are just playing for seeding in Week 18.

The Cowboys and Steelers each went down two more starters to COVID on Thursday, with cornerback Anthony Brown and Tyron Smith going on the list for Dallas and wide receiver Diontae Johnson and rookie center Kendrick Green doing so for Pittsburgh. (Johnson was quickly removed from the list Friday while Haden and Green were activated Saturday.) Elsewhere, quarterback Justin Fields was supposed to return to the starting lineup after a two-game injury absence, but he landed on COVID reserve Thursday, likely ending his rookie campaign.

Here’s an updated look at each team’s current COVID-19 situation as we head into Week 18, specifically which players are on COVID reserve:

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(Note: This list does not include players on practice squad or injured reserve.)