Chiefs players are returning from the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list ahead of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Arrowhead Stadium.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones was observed Thursday on the field during the portion of practice that was open to the media. The Chiefs later confirmed that Jones was activated from the COVID-19 list, along with cornerback Charvarius Ward.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is happy to have two of his starters back in the face of roster re-shuffling to fill potential absences against the Steelers.
“That helps,” Spagnuolo said Thursday. “Any time you get — we’ll call them vets — back that have a foundation of reps in what we’re doing, I think that’s huge.”
Jones’ presence was certainly missed in the middle of the Chiefs’ defense last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. On Thursday, defensive end Frank Clark welcomed back his teammate with open arms.
“It was dope,” Clark said Thursday. “I believe he’s been out like (nine) days, something like that. Anytime you get one of your guys out, and not just Chris, but any other guy, you’re happy to see them back. You want to see all your guys healthy.”
Jones and Ward join wide receiver Josh Gordon and linebacker Willie Gay Jr., both of whom returned Wednesday, as players who’ve made it off the reserve/COVID-19 list this week.
The Chiefs now have nine total players from the 53-player roster on the list: wide receiver Tyreek Hill, tight end Travis Kelce, tight end Blake Bell, rookie tackle Lucas Niang, offensive lineman Kyle Long, linebacker Nick Bolton, cornerback Rashad Fenton, safety Armani Watts and kicker Harrison Butker.
Additionally, the Chiefs have three practice squad players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, wide receiver Daurice Fountan and linebacker Darius Harris.
Here’s how the Chiefs got to this point:
Dec. 13: Gordon on list
Dec. 14: Jones on list
Dec. 15: Gay on list
Dec. 16: Chiefs beat Chargers in overtime without Gordon, Jones and Gay
Dec. 17: Dieter on list
Dec. 20: Kelce, Ward, Butker on list
Dec. 21: Hill, Niang, Bolton, Fenton, Bell, Long, Watts, Fountain, Harris on list
Dec. 22: Mike Remmers, currently on injured reserve, is listed; Gordon and Gay clear protocols and return to practice
Dec. 23: Jones and Ward clear protocols and return to practice.
So far, the speed with which a player has returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list has fluctuated. Ward spent the least amount of time listed: four days. Gay spent seven days on the list, while Gordon and Jones each spent nine.
The Chiefs announced that “everybody else” on their roster practiced Thursday, meaning offensive lineman Andrew Wylie (knee) and linebacker Ben Niemann (ankle) got in work. Kansas City later in the afternoon listed Wylie and Niemann as full participants in practice for a second straight day.
Jones and Ward were listed as limited, but the designations are likely by design because of the time each had missed.
“They’ve been physically not doing anything for a while, so we want to be really careful with the number of reps,” Spagnuolo explained. “But hopefully (Friday), we can get them in there and ramp it up a little bit.”
The nine Chiefs players remaining on the reserve/COVID-19 list do not count against the team’s active roster, so they will not be listed on the Chiefs’ injury reports.