With the new this year in-season version of Hard Knocks, the focus has shifted from the preseason version’s emphasis on players trying to make the team to how teams handle the ups and downs of a NFL season. This year in particular, some of those ups and downs aren’t about regular injury issues, but rather players winding up in COVID-19 protocols. This week’s episode (debuting on HBO at 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT Wednesday, also available on HBO Max) illustrates that, capturing on camera the moment that Indianapolis Colts’ head coach Frank Reich found out that All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson had been placed in the COVID-19 protocols (which happened Friday, a day before their game against the Arizona Cardinals, and meant they were without three starting offensive linemen for that game). This preview clip shows that, plus offensive line coach Chris Strausser talking to his remaining players:
Both Reich and Strausser are understandably not thrilled with losing another lineman, but they both emphasize a next-man-up philosophy and how they believe in the players they have left. And that worked out okay for the Colts Saturday at least, as they beat the Cardinals 22-16 behind a strong ground game, including 108 rushing yards from Jonathan Taylor. Meanwhile, Nelson and right guard Mark Glowinski (as well as three other players) cleared protocols Wednesday, so the Colts should be in a little better shape for their next game (at home Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders).
The clip here does also illustrate the unusual challenges NFL coaches are having to deal with this year. With more standard injuries, coaches are usually at least aware early in the week that a player might not be able to go, but with COVID protocols, anyone can test positive at any time. So day-before news like this can happen. It’s interesting to see that captured on a documentary show, and to see how the coaches react to it.
[HBO on YouTube]