Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard on Friday woke up to news that four members of the organization had tested positive for COVID-19, which could’ve put Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals in jeopardy. Quick action by the team revealed those four individuals were actually negative for the virus, however, allowing for a full work day and the team to proceed as usual to take on the Bengals. Andrew Walker
INDIANAPOLIS - Every organization across the National Football League has prepared for the possibility of the COVID-19 virus potentially wreaking havoc on their team at some point throughout the season - even if it's just a false alarm.
The Indianapolis Colts had their turn on Friday morning.
The team learned around 5 a.m. ET that four members of the organization had tested positive for COVID-19, which raised concerns first and foremost about the health of those individuals and their families, and then also raised some potential red flags about the team's Week 6 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals, which was set to kick off in Indy just three days later.
Fortunately, the Colts have leadership that can adapt and adjust on the fly.
Out of an abundance of caution, general manager Chris Ballard and Frank Reich immediately made the decision to close the team's facility until further notice, to schedule virtual meetings and to rerun the samples on the four members of the organization that had originally tested positive.
By about 11:20 a.m. ET, team owner Jim Irsay announced that "all is well;" the retested samples for those four individuals were confirmed as negative for the COVID-19 virus, meaning Sunday's game against the Bengals will go on as planned.
"Players and coaches did a great job of adjusting on the fly; really it was not a big deal," Reich told reporters on Friday afternoon. "Internally it was just a question of adapting and adjusting; again, organizationally, (I) can't say enough about the people working with (us), and Chris really in communication back and forth with the league early on, just to make sure we were on point and on cue with everything we needed to do on our part to get ready to play this football game. And excited - excited that we get to do that, excited that we get to play in Lucas Oil (Stadium) again this week, and looking forward to that."
Really, other than pushing the schedule back a few hours, the Colts enjoyed a pretty normal Friday, all things considered.
While meetings were conducted virtually in the AM hours, the team had already gotten used to that format thanks to an offseason workout program that was run entirely via video conferencing methods. Reich praised the work of his coordinators and assistant coaches for a seamless transition into virtual meetings on Friday.
The players and coaches then returned to the building in the afternoon, and Reich said the team still got in every rep it would've wanted compared to any other Friday leading up to a game. The main difference was the four individuals who were retested remained at home just out of an abundance of caution, Reich said, and the team did more of a "jog-through" type practice format under the league's "intensive protocol," in which players must wear masks even while wearing helmets.
"We did slightly adjust there and we jogged through, rather than full-speed," Reich said. "It just made sense that we could jog through, get all the looks we needed to get, get our bodies going a little bit, get the heart rate going a little bit, but not going full-speed seemed like the right thing. I think we got everything accomplished we needed to."
While the Colts' organization will continue to take every precaution and follow every protocol put into place to help thwart the COVID-19 virus, Reich said Friday's false alarm proved just how important it is to be as prepared as possible for any scenario that can come up at any point of the week.
"I was having a long conversation with Mr. Irsay last night, just talking about how well I think our players and our organization has done in this regard," Reich said. "I mean, you're never foolproof here - a virus is a virus, right? But I think our guys have done such a good job. We're not perfect, but I think we've been very diligent.
"Literally Chris and I talk about this every week - I mean, multiple times a week, being ready," Reich continued. "I think Chris has done an outstanding job with the organization in many respects and with the team, but I just think we've tried to stay on top of it."