This week will see yet another NFL team be forced to adapt on the fly to the novel coronavirus, only one day after both the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers were impacted. Now comes the Houston Texans, who announced no one will be allowed into the team facility on Thursday. The organization has closed its doors for at least the day after discovering late Wednesday evening that one of their players tested positive for COVID-19, pushing them into the league's protocol.
It's now been revealed at least three players will be moved to the reserve/COVID list because of contact tracing, per John McClain of The Houston Chronicle, namely linebackers Whitney Mercilus, Dylan Cole and Jacob Martin. As such, all three have been ruled out of the Week 8 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and must test negative for five consecutive days before being allowed to return to the team.
Upon learning of the initial positive test, the Texans released the following statement:
"We were informed last night that a Texans player has tested positive for COVID-19. In consultation with the NFL and medical experts, we have made the decision to close the facility and conduct all operations virtually today. The player immediately self-isolated and contact tracing has begun. We will follow the NFL's intensive protocols and guidance regarding the team's operations.
"The health and safety of our team, as well as our entire staff, are of highest priority."
The loss of Mercilus and Martin is huge for an already struggling Texans defense that allows 31 points per game, the two accounting for five of the Texans' 16 sacks on the season. Additionally, considering Houston is scheduled to take Jacksonville this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, obvious questions will now emerge on if that contest is in any real jeopardy, although there has been no news of a potential rescheduling at this point. The 49ers and Packers will meet on Thursday night despite their COVID-19 issues, which bodes well for the AFC South matchup to come, as does the fact the Texans aren't hosting the Jaguars but instead traveling to North Florida to line up against them.
If the former is unable to reopen its facility to allow for practice this week, however, things could quickly take a turn for the worse.
As the second half of the season arrives, the league has warned teams there is dwindling opportunities for rescheduling, and upped the ante on how organizations handle the wearing of masks -- in addition to other strengthened protocols. As for the Texans, time will tell if they'll be allowed to play this coming Sunday, or if the league will be forced to pivot yet again in 2020.
This is a developing story.