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Vaccine Rates Soar, But Cardinals Still Dealing With Covid Issues

Notes: Receiver group, offensive line hit; Hopkins sits with 'minor thing'

Safety Chris Banjo (31) tries to strip the ball from wide receiver KeeSean Johnson (19) during a drill on Wednesday. Thursday, Johnson didn't practice because of Covid protocols.
Safety Chris Banjo (31) tries to strip the ball from wide receiver KeeSean Johnson (19) during a drill on Wednesday. Thursday, Johnson didn't practice because of Covid protocols.

The good news came early Thursday morning, when new broke that the Cardinals – who for a long time were reportedly one of the least vaccinated teams in the NFL – now could count the number of unvaccinated players on one hand.

But it doesn't mean the Cardinals aren't dealing with Covid issues.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury said a handful of players – center Rodney Hudson, guard Justin Pugh, tackle Kelvin Beachum and wide receivers Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson – are all in Covid protocols and aren't practicing. Hudson, Kingsbury said, should be back Aug. 2, although he didn't get into return dates for anyone else and said they are all under various timelines.

On Wednesday, the Cardinals had placed wide receiver Rico Gafford and offensive lineman Shaq Calhoun on the Reserve/Covid-19 list. All five of the others were put on the list Thursday, as well as wide receiver Isaac Whitney. Cornerback Lorenzo Burns landed on the list before camp.

Being in the protocols or being put on the Reserve list does not necessarily mean a player has tested positive. It can be for a close contact, and any timeline to return would be shorter. Pugh tweeted out he is on the list only as a close contact and did not test positive.

Vaccinated players who test positive but are asymptomatic may return after two negative tests separated by 24 hours. Unvaccinated players must quarantine for a minimum of 10 days for a positive test.

Kingsbury was asked if it might be a blessing that players that do test positive were dealing with this now as opposed to in the regular season.

"I'm a glass half full guy so I think you can look at it that way," Kingsbury said. "To have it happen now and have some of those guys cleared for most of the season would be a plus, especially with some of the veterans you know are going to be ready to roll when we get to Week 1."

As for the uptick in players getting vaccinated, given the restrictions unvaccinated players face it seemed likely the percentage would grow and Kingsbury acknowledged the NFL Network report that the Cardinals were above 90 percent.

"We felt it was headed in the right direction," Kingsbury said. "Our organization has done a great job presenting information, the NFL has done a great job presenting these guys with necessary information so they can make sound decisions. It's good to see that number has risen."

HOPKINS SITS OUT

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins did not practice Thursday with something Kingsbury only would say was a "minor thing" and declined to get into details. He is expected back "soon."

Coincidentally, Kingsbury had been asked the day before about Hopkins at practice and if the Cardinals were going to do anything different this year. Hopkins usually sat out a practice a week last season as maintenance – which seemed to have helped in a 115-catch season.

"We're going to do what's best for him to maximize him when he gets out there," Kingsbury said. "He knows his body, he knows how to prepare for these games and play at a high level. We'll continue to work with him."

KENNARD RETURNS WITH FOCUS

There has been plenty of discussion about Cardinals' linebackers this offseason – Chandler Jones, Dennis Gardeck, Jordan Hicks, Zaven Collins, Isaiah Simmons – but one player often lost in the shuffle was Devon Kennard. There was even some early offseason speculation Kennard might be a cap casualty or be asked to take a paycut after his playing time dwindled at the end of the season.

But neither occurred and Kennard has started camp as a solid part of the outside linebacker mix, after battling both injuries and Covid last season.

"He's focused, and when he played last year, he helped us win," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "He's so tough and so smart, he makes plays every single game. Having him healthy, having Chan healthy, it should be better than it was last year."

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