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With COVID Lurking, Quarterbacks Know Close-Knit Can't Mean Close

Even before Broncos situation, Cardinals understood "we have to do things right"

Quarterbacks Kyler Murray (left) and Chris Streveler fist-bump before a recent home game.
Quarterbacks Kyler Murray (left) and Chris Streveler fist-bump before a recent home game.

Traditionally, the quarterbacks of the Cardinals have so few in their unit that their meeting room is one of the smallest on the team.

In the season of COVID, however, tiny enclosed spaces don't work. And for the most important position on the team, the Cardinals don't take chances, with the group watching video -- Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Chris Streveler -- in the room that any other year houses the meetings for the entire team.

"We've got to meet in a freaking huge room just to have the space," Hundley said. "It's just really different. You are sort of around each other all the time but you understand even in the down time, we can't hang around each other. A lot of the time, it's not even about catching COVID, it's the contact tracing."

The impact of COVID cases has been felt throughout the season, but no more than the past few days in the NFL. Ravens starting quarterback Lamar Jackson missed a game Wednesday – a game that was moved three times because of the Ravens' coronavirus outbreak – and the Broncos were forced to play a practice-squad wide receiver at quarterback Sunday because contact tracing wiped out their entire position group.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said before the season there was some consideration to keeping a quarterback or quarterbacks separate, but ultimately, they did not.

"Our quarterbacks are very aware, particularly with the recent events, that we have to do things right and do everything that's laid out for us, and they do a great job of that," Kingsbury said. "We like the plan we have in place, we have handled it very well and we will keep moving forward."

Rams coach Sean McVay said earlier in the year he gave some thought to having an emergency quarterback stashed away for a break-glass situation. He decided against it.

But, "you realize what a volatile situation it is," McVay said.

When the season started, the Eagles signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown to their practice squad, although McCown remained at his home in Carolina and took part in virtual meetings only (McCown was later signed to the Texans' 53-man roster.) Bills third-string QB Jake Fromm takes part in meetings but doesn't participate in regular practices, instead getting work post-practice with a handful of teammates.

The Seahawks are reportedly going to keep practice squad QB Danny Etling apart from Russell Wilson and backup Geno Smith to avoid a Denver situation.

The Broncos had third-string QB Jeff Driskel land on the COVID list. When the other three QBs were held out, it was because of "high-risk" contact tracing when they didn't wear masks while watching video together. They did not test positive.

"It's hard to say you would want to keep a fourth (QB), but in today's age, like you see with the Broncos, maybe you have someone who may not be around the facility but at least he knows something," Hundley said. "A Plan Z."

Kingsbury wouldn't say who the Cardinals' emergency quarterbacks would be, adding "we will cross that bridge when we got there and have as good of an answer as you can have."

The Giants have decided to separate six players on their practice squad from their teammates for COVID prevention, although none are quarterbacks.

Veteran Cardinals cornerback Johnathan Joseph began the year playing for the Titans, and was in Tennessee when they had their early-season outbreak, causing them to have their bye week moved and playing their first game back after not practicing for a couple of weeks.

"We understood what type of year it was going to be," Joseph said. "All 32 teams have to deal with the same types of protocols, some teams have outbreaks, but at the end of the day it's out of everyone's control.

"You take care of what you have to take care of, and whoever you have to play when Sunday comes around, or Tuesday or Wednesday or whatever day the game is scheduled, you have to go out and give your best effort."

Hundley said the difficult part about quarterback is, even if it is just the starter who is out, if it happened too close to game day, none of the backups get many reps if any.

"I just think you've got to be aware," Murray said. "Whatever situation you're in, have your mask on, make sure you're not close to anybody or have the possibility to catch it. I'm not going to be standing right up on you talking face-to-face with you. I just think you've got to be smart about it.

"Obviously, some people can't control getting it. I'm not (one of) those people who have gotten it, so I don't know how they got it, but I'm going to try to do my best to stay away and be safe."

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