NFL Exec Rips Replacement Players Signed amid COVID: 'No Idea Who They Even Are'

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 27, 2021

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 19:  A general view of the NFL logo on the official ootball is seen during a regular season NFL football game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions on December 19, 2021 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Professional sports teams have been forced to sign replacement players amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge worldwide.

The NFL is no exception, as many players find themselves on the reserve/COVID-19 lists, leading one NFC executive to make this remark to Mike Sando of The Athletic:

"We had guys out on the practice field—it looked like a rookie minicamp."

"I’m serious. There were guys I have no idea who they even are. I’ve never seen them in my life, and it looked like there is a good reason why I haven’t seen them."

Per Tucker Bagley of Sharp Football Analysis, a total of 241 players were on the reserve/COVID-19 list entering Week 16. The number of players on the list never rose above 50 on any given day until mid-December.

The number of COVID-19 players who found themselves on the list entering Week 16 was large enough to make up nearly five 53-man rosters.

The league hasn't seen anything like that since 1987, and that was due to a players' strike that led to NFL teams hiring replacements leaguewide for three weeks to keep the season moving along.

Some superstars have found themselves on the list, including Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler and edge-rusher Joey Bosa, Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Darius Leonard, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook.

However, some of the replacement players have made big impacts. Of note, practice-squad call-up Duke Johnson rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-24 win over the New York Jets last Sunday as Miami's running back room was affected by COVID-19.

Other players deeper down on the depth chart have needed to step up. For example, the Chiefs lost a big pass-catching weapon in Travis Kelce, which allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers to game-plan and take away fellow superstar Tyreek Hill. However, wideout Byron Pringle stepped up with six catches for 75 yards and two scores in a 36-10 win Sunday.

Ultimately, the entire league needs to figure out contingency plans as the COVID-19 surge continues. After Week 16 concludes Monday, there are two more regular-season weeks remaining before playoffs.