GREEN BAY, Wis. — Two days after arriving in Green Bay, veteran offensive tackle Jared Veldheer was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Veldheer tested positive for COVID-19, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates. But the good news for the top-seeded Packers as they prepare for Saturday’s NFC divisional-round playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams is that the standard contact tracing investigation did not deem any other players as close contacts, a source told ESPN.
The next step, however, is to wait out each day of daily COVID tests before their playoff opener to make sure there are no more positive tests. Veldheer was signed off the Indianapolis Colts‘ practice squad on Monday and practiced with the team on Tuesday. He did not practice on Wednesday. He had been in the testing program with the Colts, which is why he was able to join the Packers on the field immediately.
The Packers turned their large media auditorium into the offensive line media room this season, which likely helped them prevent any other linemen from being considered close contacts.
Had Veldheer played against the Rams, he would have become the first player to appear in a postseason game for two different teams in the same year. He was elevated from the Colts practice squad and started at left tackle in their AFC wild-card playoff loss to the Bills on Saturday.
Veldheer is in his second stint with the Packers. He started for them at right tackle in last year’s NFC divisional playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks after Bryan Bulaga became ill before the game. The Packers had lured Veldheer out of retirement and signed him in November of 2019.
The Packers did not say how — or if — they planned to use Veldheer this week. They lost All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari to a torn ACL in practice leading up to the regular-season finale. They started Billy Turner at left tackle in Bakhtiari’s place and put Rick Wagner at right tackle. Veldheer most likely would have served as the top backup tackle unless the Packers wanted to move Turner back to guard to deal with Aaron Donald.
Earlier on Tuesday, coach Matt LaFleur said of Veldheer: “I thought he did a nice job yesterday. But it was primarily walk-through so it was really tough to evaluate that in one walk-through setting. So we’ll play it day-by-day and see where he’s at.”
Answering the biggest injury questions for NFL divisional playoff teams
Quarterbacks continue to deal with injuries, most notably in Los Angeles where Jared Goff is still recovering from surgery on his throwing hand thumb and John Wolford from a stinger. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is also dealing with a rib injury suffered in the wild-card round, but is expected to play.
Our NFL Nation reporters update the top injury question for every team heading into divisional weekend:
No. 6 Los Angeles Rams vs. No. 1 Green Bay Packers, 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Rams: The Rams have no shortage of injury big concerns ahead of Saturday’s divisional-round playoff against the Packers. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald is dealing with a rib injury, but is expected to play, according to Rams coach Sean McVay. “Unless something unforeseen happens,” McVay said, “the terminator will be ready.” Receiver Cooper Kupp has bursitis in his knee and is day-to-day, and then there’s the quarterback situation. Jared Goff is another week removed from Dec. 28 surgery on his throwing hand thumb and John Wolford is recovering from a stinger, but McVay isn’t saying which QB is on track to start against the Packers. — Lindsey Thiry
Packers: The Packers don’t have any major injury issues – at least none they can solve before Saturday’s game against the Rams. They’re obviously not getting left tackle David Bakhtiari (ACL) off injured reserve. But otherwise the playoff bye week did them wonders. Wide receiver Davante Adams, who didn’t practice last week in the two workouts, isn’t even listed on the injury report. Said Adams: “I just wanted to make sure I gave myself the right rest, treatment and just relaxation while still getting my cardio and everything I needed. I feel as good as I’ve felt all season right now.” — Rob Demovsky
No. 5 Baltimore Ravens vs. No. 2 Buffalo Bills, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
Ravens: Three-time Pro Bowl corner Marcus Peters looked healthy when he made the game-clinching interception in the final two minutes of Sunday’s wild-card victory in Tennessee and hopped on the Titans logo. But Peters, who has been among the most durable cornerbacks in the league, missed Tuesday’s walk-through and Wednesday’s practice because of a back injury. Peters’ availability looms large in this matchup against the Bills. Josh Allen has completed an NFL-high 302 passes to wide receivers — 22 more than any other quarterback. If the Ravens are without their No. 2 cornerback, they would rely on Jimmy Smith and Anthony Averett to fill the void. — Jamison Hensley
Bills: Can wide receiver Cole Beasley‘s knee hold up at least one more week? The Bills’ slot receiver made it through the wild-card round without any setbacks after missing Week 17 with a knee injury and Buffalo says he should be available for Saturday’s game against the Ravens. The Bills will need their second-leading receiver as a a safety valve against Baltimore’s aggressive blitzing scheme. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
No. 6 Cleveland Browns vs. No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs, 3:05 p.m. ET, Sunday, CBS
Browns: All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin sat out Wednesday’s practice because of a hamstring injury that knocked him out of Sunday’s playoff win over Pittsburgh. Coach Kevin Stefanski has termed Conklin “day-to-day,” but the Browns are hopeful he’ll be ready in time for Cleveland’s divisional road trip to Kansas City. — Jake Trotter
Chiefs: Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has a chance to play on Sunday against the Browns. He practiced for the first time since injuring his ankle and hip in a Week 15 game against the Saints. Edwards-Helaire was a limited participant on Wednesday. The Chiefs could use a healthy Edwards-Helaire, who has more big play ability than either of their other top backs, Darrel Williams and Le’Veon Bell.— Adam Teicher
No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. No. 2 New Orleans Saints, 6:40 p.m. ET, Sunday, Fox
Buccaneers: Inside linebacker Devin White and defensive lineman Steve McLendon both returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list after missing the last two games, but running back Ronald Jones did not practice Wednesday due to a quad injury that forced him to miss last week’s wild-card game. “I anticipate and hope he can go tomorrow,” coach Bruce Arians said of Jones. Right guard Alex Cappa, who suffered a fractured ankle against Washington, will be replaced by Aaron Stinnie this week. — Jenna Laine
Saints: Defensive end Trey Hendrickson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday after missing last week’s game with a lingering stinger. Not only did Hendrickson lead the Saints in sacks this year with 13.5, but he was especially huge in the two wins over Tampa Bay with a combined three sacks (plus a sack-fumble that was negated by penalty). Versatile offensive chess piece Taysom Hill did not practice Wednesday because a knee injury that temporarily sidelined him last Sunday, but it’s too early in the week to predict his status. — Mike Triplett
Kansas City Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire returns to practice ahead of playoff game
Edwards-Helaire returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle and hip in a Week 15 game against the New Orleans Saints. He was a limited practice participant.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he was able to watch some of Edwards-Helaire’s rehab progress, noting that the 2020 first-round draft pick “gets after it.”
“A lot of it is the way you approach it and the trust you have in the trainers and so on. I’ll tell you, this kid, he just kind of went right at it,” Reid said. “I mean, he was fearless with it, and as a result, I’d tell you he’s probably a little ahead, and we’ve just got to evaluate it.”
But, Reid cautioned, “we’re not going to do anything to jeopardize him or his career. I mean, that’s not what we’re doing. We’ve taken it day by day with him and we’ll keep doing that and just see how he does here.”
Edwards-Helaire led the team in rushing with 803 yards in the regular season. He also caught 36 passes and scored five touchdowns.
Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald on rib injury — ‘Feel real good’
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald says the rib injury he suffered in a wild-card playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks is feeling good and that he’s on track to play against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in a divisional-round playoff.
“Feel good, feel real good,” Donald said Wednesday. “No pain, feel healthy.”
After a minute of questions from reporters about his rib injury, including one probing about the extent of the injury, Donald grew tired of the subject.
“Man, my damn side is just sore, I’m good though,” Donald said with a grin. “I ain’t gonna sit here and talk about my damn side the whole time. I’m good. I just had a whole workout, feel strong, feel healthy, so I’m good.”
A day before Donald spoke with reporters, Rams coach Sean McVay said that the star defensive tackle would rest from practices this week, adding that “unless something unforeseen happens, the Terminator will be ready.”
Donald went through a workout in the weight room on Tuesday and Wednesday, but acknowledged that he would follow the recommendations of the training staff to ensure that he would not suffer any setback ahead of Saturday.
“Just be cautious, be smart,” said Donald, who has not missed a game due to injury in his seven-year career. “Not trying to tweak nothing, make sure that come game day I’m ready to go.”
Donald suffered the injury in the third quarter of a 30-20 win over the Seahawks last Saturday when he hit quarterback Russell Wilson, who landed on Donald as the two went to the ground. Donald says he felt like he got the wind knocked out of him.
“I was hurting,” he said.
Nevertheless, after returning to the field from the locker room, Donald says he considered returning to the game until the Rams scored with 4:46 remaining to take a 30-13 lead.
“That kind of put it away, so it was like a ‘Let’s rest up for next week,’ type thing,” said Donald, who had two sacks in the game.
A two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Donald had 13.5 sacks in the regular season for the Rams’ top-ranked defense, which finished atop the league in efficiency, yards allowed per game and points allowed per game.
As he prepares for Saturday’s game at a chilly Lambeau Field, Donald did not express concern about how his injury would respond in temperatures forecasted to top out in the mid-30’s. And he was uncertain whether he will any additional protective equipment around his ribs.
“I feel good, I feel strong and I’ll be ready to go come Saturday,” Donald said.
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