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Is there any way Austin Ekeler can play in Week 16 vs. Texans?

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. We take a look at if he has a chance to play in Week 16 against the Texans.

The Ross Tucker Football Podcast | Andrew Brandt: NFL COVID Postponements & New Testing Policy

Saturday update: Austin Ekeler announced on his Instagram that he tested positive again and is out for Week 16.

The Los Angeles Chargers have begun preparations for Week 16 and will be shorthanded due to COVID-19. The team placed RB Austin Ekeler, DE Joey Bosa, and C Corey Linsley on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. Head coach Brandon Staley said Bosa is definitely out for Week 16 vs. the Texans while Ekeler and Linsley are day-to-day, per Taylor Bisciotti.

Is it possible for Austin Ekeler to play in Week 16 vs. Texans?

Friday update: Ekeler told Dawson Knox on Thursday to pick up Justin Jackson or Joshua Kelley in his fantasy football league. It could just be a precaution, but it suggests Ekeler will not play on Sunday.

Friday update: Ekeler still has a chance of being cleared from the COVID-19 list, per Brandon Staley, but we’re coming down to the wire.

UPDATE: As of the evening of Monday, December 20, the Chargers have not placed Ekeler on the reserve/COVID-19 list, per Taylor Bisciotti. He did not practice with the team today, so his status is still unclear.

The fact that Ekeler was not immediately ruled out suggests he has a chance to play. We don’t know yet if Ekeler is vaccinated, which impacts his timeline for return. If he is vaccinated, he does have a chance to play on Sunday. If vaccinated, he can return if he is asymptomatic for at least 24 hours by one of the following options:

  1. He receivers two BRL PCR test results that are either negative or produce Cycle Threshold (CT) values of 35 or greater; OR
  2. He receive one BRL PCR test result that is either negative or produces CT values of 35 or greater and a negative Mesa test result from a test taken within 24 hours of the BRL PCR test. Both tests can be taken at the same time or less than 24 hours apart; OR
  3. He receives two negative MESA tests 24 hours after the initial swab was taken, but can be taken concurrently provided it’s two separate new swabs.

The previously policy required two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, but that has been cut down considerably with these new protocols.

If he has not received the COVID-19 vaccine and is confirmed to have tested positive, he would be required to quarantine for at least a 10-day period. If he was just a close contact, he would be required to quarantine for a five-day period. The latter is why he could still return this week even if unvaccinated.

All that is to say, we’ll know more later this week. Justin Jackson would start in Ekeler’s place if the latter could not play, but it’s TBD for now. Jackson is worth a waiver add if you have space, but keep an eye out for updates.