The Buccaneers clinched the NFC South with a big win over the Panthers on Sunday. Two days later, they’ve suffered three big losses, with head coach Bruce Arians testing positive for COVID-19 and starting cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting landing on COVID reserve. The NFL is reportedly on the verge of revising COVID protocols to reduce isolation requirements, but in the meantime, Arians, Dean and Murphy-Bunting could all be unavailable for Week 17 against the Jets.
Arians, 67, has already begun quarantining at home, the Buccaneers announced Tuesday, with assistant head coach and run game coordinator Harold Goodwin filling in as acting head coach. The NFL has been requiring at least 10 days of isolation for symptomatic or unvaccinated players and staff who test positive for COVID, but the league is set to reduce its mandated quarantine to five days for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. If implemented immediately, Arians could return to the sidelines ahead of Sunday’s matchup with New York.
As the league’s third-oldest head coach and, more notably, a repeat cancer survivor, Arians has long taken additional precautions to avoid COVID-19. Previous cancer diagnoses make him particularly vulnerable to COVID and its more serious effects.
Dean had previously been sidelined with an illness. Should both he and Murphy-Bunting remain out, the Bucs would be set to turn to veteran Richard Sherman and reserves Ross Cockrell and Carlton Davis at cornerback.