FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons are not in the NFL’s enhanced COVID-19 protocols, but have taken some extra measures after three players were placed on the reserve COVID-19 list Monday.
“Other than some COVID-19 protocols, it’s business as usual,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said before practice Wednesday. “I think the one thing that, having done it for the last two years, you learn is to be flexible, and we have certain set-ups to handle when this kind of stuff happens. You have to make the best of it.”
There were rows of white folding chairs set up in the indoor barn, which could accommodate a spaced-out indoor full-team meeting.
“I think (coach Arthur Smith) has done a good job spacing things out and doing some stuff virtual,” Ryan said. “The guys have done a good job of locking in when you need to lock in.”
Ryan didn’t have any virtual meetings.
“For some of the guys, (they have met virtually), for me it’s all been in person,” Ryan said. “We’ve got the barn, which is nice for us to use as a meeting space where you can space out and social distance or whatever. Art has done a good job with that.”
The Falcons were reported to be in the league’s enhanced protocols by ESPN.
While the Falcons are not in enhanced protocols, several other NFL teams have been hit by COVID-19. There have been many positive tests this week. According to reports, 36 NFL players (25 active, 11 on practice squads) were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday alone. For the Falcons, linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee and practice squad players linebacker Quinton Bell and cornerback Cornell Armstrong were placed on the reserve COVID-19 list. The NBA is also dealing with an increased number of positive COVID-19 tests that have several teams shorthanded.
The Falcons are “in-person” Wednesday and are not sure why they were included on the ESPN bottom-line crawl.
The Falcons insisted that they are in-person and that Wednesday’s practice schedule has not changed.
However, Smith didn’t directly say the Falcons were not in the enhanced program. He was asked twice and gave wandering responses about it being 2021 and not 2020, vaccines and getting booster shots.
“There’s a ton of disinformation out there,” Smith said Wednesday. “It has been for a while. It’s to have accelerated in this country. So, it’s not 2020. It’s 2021. So, they have enhanced protocols, and they are very different from what we lived through last year. So, to answer your question, you can be in enhanced, but it’s not the enhanced protocols from last year. Things evolve, and December 2021 is a lot different than December 2020.”
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC
He later was asked to clarify his response.
“We’re in the 2021, a lot of things get leaked out from God knows where,” Smith said. “Not from here. But again, I’m trying to educate, it’s not last year’s. Unfortunately, there is a societal issue; we are still in a pandemic. But there are a lot of variables that have changed.
“Every country is handling it differently. Globally, locally, so that’s the thing. Thankfully there are things you can control and things you can’t. That’s true with everything in life. So, thankfully, depending on how you believe, doesn’t mean I think I’m better than anybody else, the vaccine is available. Thankful to go get it.
“Thankful to get my booster shot. But there are a lot of things I can’t control. It’s out there. It’s inevitable. We try to be educate and do smart things. This is a very different moment in time than it was in 2020. The pandemic is still going on. It’s a completely different things.”
Smith was with Tennessee last season, and they had one of the league’s biggest outbreaks.
“Last year, when you were enhanced, there wasn’t a vaccine available,” Smith said. “It was different protocols that you had to go into and things became more virtual. There was so much more. There is still a lot of unknowns. I don’t claim to be an expert. I never will on medical issues.
“I think that’s what needs to be addressed. If it’s enhanced, it’s a very different moment in time. Every team is dealing with something different. Our issues can be completely different from the next team. So, we feel like we are in a good spot, but we feel like there is always some unknowns when you walk in this building every day.”
Smith denied that the Falcons were meeting virtually as a team. Some of the practice squad had to meet virtually.
“It wasn’t factual of what is really going on,” Smith said. “Again, I don’t know what’s going on in any other building. I just know that we communicate with the league constantly. I just know what’s going on up here in Flowery Branch. We are trying to do the best we can. It’s something that we really, if you really look at it, it’s uncontrollable in certain areas.
“I’m not going to get into the league protocols. It’s not some big mystery, but no, we are not in virtual meetings. That’s not the right assumption.”
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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo
Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores
Eagles 32, Falcons 6
Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25
Falcons 17, Giants 14
Washington 34, Falcons 30
Falcons 27, Jets 20
Falcons 30, Dolphins 28
Panthers 19, Falcons 13
Falcons 27, Saints 25
Cowboys 43, Falcons 3
Patriots 25, Falcons 0
Falcons 21, Jaguars 14
Next four games
Tampa Bay at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5
Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12
Falcons at San Francisco, 4:05 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19
Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26