Lions: No new positive COVID-19 tests; 'several' coaches to remain away from team facility
After announcing two positive COVID-19 tests within the organization on Tuesday, the Detroit Lions now face a greater challenge after a number of the team's coaches, including interim coach Darrell Bevell and multiple members defensive staff, have been deemed to be high-risk close contacts.
"After going through a lot of the contact tracing, we're going to keep several coaches out of practice today, including myself and (defensive coordinator) Cory Undlin," Bevell said Wednesday. "We're all included in that and a few other assistant coaches. I think there's still a lot of information and dialogue going on between the league right now and the team. We're still working through that and sifting through all that information."
As it currently stands, Saturday's game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers remains on schedule and the Lions practiced Wednesday afternoon after no new positive tests.
Bevell and the team's other quarantined coaches attended the practice virtually. He declined to comment further on which coaches wouldn't be in attendance, but along with him and Undlin, defensive backs coach Steve Gregory, linebackers coach Ty McKenzie and defensive line coach Bo Davis were also absent for the portion of practice open to the media.
"When I took over we ended up having a little different practice structure," Bevell said. "So the practice is already laid out exactly how many reps and periods we're doing. So if you were at practice, you probably wouldn't notice a difference because it will run smoothly. We have a certain number of plays we run, we blow the horn, we switch and basically I kind of take care of the whistle of ending the play. So I assigned one guy to make sure we end the plays that we need to. And the rest of it is just going to run as normal because the coaches that we have, that will be there, have already been at practice working with those positions. So it will be seamless."
Assuming the coaches continue to test negative, some of those who were absent should be able to be medically cleared by Saturday. For players, the league requires a five-day quarantine for high-risk close contacts, and the Lions' positive cases stem from Sunday's travel back from Nashville after the team's game against the Tennessee Titans.
The players worked virtually Monday and Tuesday, while Monday was an optional day for the coaching staff to be in the building. That's where the contact tracing will be key in determining when the quarantine clock starts for each.
As of Wednesday, the Lions weren't ready to announce any contingency plans for Saturday's game.
"By the end of the week, we'll give you all the information that we need to, in terms of the contingency plans that we have for guys in specific roles," Bevell said about his coaches. "Obviously, it's a time where we really do need to adjust and we've shown the ability to do that before. This thing is going to be no different. We've got great coaches on this staff, a great support staff and everyone is really kind of rallying together to be able to help out in this time and fitting in where we can."
The obvious, immediate concern is play-calling responsibilities. The defensive coaches who were cleared to be at practice on Wednesday — quality control coach Stephen Thomas, assistant Tony Carter and intern Ty Warren — have fewer than four full seasons of NFL experience and no play-calling background at any level.
Offensively, Bevell handles the play-calling. And despite a more-experienced staff on that side of the ball, only wide receivers coach Robert Price has previously served as a coordinator, last working in that role for Boise State in 2013.
Even though Bevell noted that the team has grown accustomed to adjusting on the fly during the pandemic a day earlier, he also acknowledged some natural frustration with the situation, which has impacted him both professionally and personally. On Tuesday, he was quarantined in a hotel room during his 28th wedding anniversary, plus he might still be required to be there on Christmas morning, as well.