How the NFL’s COVID-19 list rules could force Kansas City Chiefs to gamble with roster

More than a dozen players on the Chiefs’ active roster have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in the past two weeks.

And yet the most unconventional roster moves await this weekend.

How about a game of chance?

The Chiefs could be forced into taking an unusual gamble with their roster ahead of Sunday’s home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, thanks to the timing requirements in the activation rules.

In order for a player to be eligible to participate Sunday, they must have been activated off the COVID-19 list by 3 p.m. Saturday — even though a player can pass the new testing thresholds as late as Sunday morning and be cleared.

So here’s the resulting twist: The Chiefs might activate some key players before 3 p.m. Saturday just in case they pass the COVID-19 testing protocols Sunday morning — otherwise, if they indeed pass testing Sunday but weren’t activated a day earlier, they cannot play.

Which leaves the Chiefs in a position to take some guesses. Who could pass testing? Who is important enough to take the risk?

Chiefs coach Andy Reid indicated he’s willing to plug players back into the lineup after missing a week of practice.

“We’ll see. It depends. There’s tomorrow; there’s Sunday,” Reid said. “You don’t know when they’re coming back, first of all. But there are some I would play if they were healthy and ready to go.”

After the addition of punter Tommy Townsend to the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, the Chiefs are back to nine players on the COVID list. They activated tight end Blake Bell.

Among those nine, they have replaced only one with an actual signing — after kicker Harrison Butker landed on the list, they signed Elliott Fry to the active roster.

So the roster stands at 44, with space to either sign more or make some of those aforementioned activations from the COVID-19 list by 3 p.m. Saturday — either because players cleared testing Saturday, or the Chiefs are simply hoping they will clear Sunday.

Of note: Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce remain on the COVID list.

In other words, keep in mind that a player activated Saturday has not necessarily cleared the league’s protocols. The Chiefs could be preparing for the just-in-case scenario.

If the Chiefs chose to activate players Saturday on a guess but they guess wrong, those players will be among the ones declared inactive on Sunday. Teams can dress as many as 48 players on game days, but only if eight are offensive linemen. They’ll also be allotted the two standard practice squad elevations to help fill out the game-day roster.

With just 44 currently available, the Chiefs have some wiggle room — but not the kind that provides comfort.