C.J. Mosley, the Jets' defensive captain, encapsulated his teammates' reaction after hearing on Wednesday that head coach Robert Saleh has tested positive for COVID-19.
"We were all shocked," Mosley told reporters. "I hope he's good, his family's good and he's back toward the end of the week. Safety and family first."
Mosley knows of what he speaks -- the veteran linebacker opted-out of the 2020 NFL season amid the coronavirus pandemic and has returned to have a stellar season, leading the team in tackles and calling defensive signals.
As of late Wednesday, the Jets have 17 players on the league's Reserve/COVID-19 list. There are 11 players on the active roster currently in protocols: CB Michael Carter II, S Ashtyn Davis, DT Folorunso Fatukasi, DT Jonathan Marshall, DL John Franklin-Myers, special teams standout Justin Hardee, LB Hamsah Nasirildeen, S Sharrod Neashman, WR Jeff Smith, rookie LG Alijah Vera-Tucker and TE Kenny Yeboah. The practice squad Covid contingent includes LB Noah Dawkins, CB Lamar Jackson, DL Tanzel Smart and WR Vyncint Smith. Both WR Elijah Moore and LB Blake Cashman are on the list in addition to the injured reserve designations.
"At the end of the day we're all professionals and all have to go out there and do our job, of course it's going to be a little different," RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif said. "We have a lot of great leaders in the room, whether it's players or coaches and we know Coach Saleh is going to be there virtually.
"So I think it's a matter of not letting that noise influence our job to focus on the field and to do everything right this week."
Tardif, who was acquired in a trade from Kansas City, sat out last season and worked as an orderly at a health-care facility in his native Montreal. He also had a seat on the NFL's COVID task force that worked to advise the league.
Asked by team reporter Ethan Greenberg about the current situation, LDT said: "It's hard to compare. Last year we knew little about the virus and there was no vaccine available. Now I feel like most of the players and coaches are vaccinated and it gives us great protection. So, yes, it might still be cases and now with the variant there's a lot of cases. But I feel for the most part we're protected and have to trust science and do everything we can to stay on the field."
For now, tight ends coach Ron Middleton will be running practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center while Saleh will be able to attend meetings virtually until he is ready to resume his normal duties.
"I addressed the team on the field right before the walk-through," Middleton said. "I told them what Coach Saleh had said and we commenced the practicing. Here we are."
Mosley (back) did not practice on Wednesday, and neither did WR Jamison Crowder (calf), CB Bryce Hall (non-COVID illness), DL Sheldon Rankins (knee) and S Elijah Riley (concussion). RT George Fant, who missed this past Sunday's game at Miami with a knee injury, was limited in practice (as were Quinnen Williams and LDT).
"It's crazy," Fant said. "You see other teams get hit with it, I guess it's our turn. I feel bad for the guys who got it, wishing them the best. Now it's another opportunity for other guys to go out there and prove who they are. It's just another hurdle for us to get over."
For his part, Mosley said that each player is responsible not only to themselves, but to the entire Green & White organization.
"We are all trying to do what we can to stay safe and not catch COVID," he said. "Staying away from other people and stay away from trouble off the field. I'm vaccinated and doing the right things, taking one day at a time."