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NFL

NY Jets' coach Robert Saleh sidelined by covid-19

If things weren't already bad due to covid-19 absentees and injuries, the Jets will now have to do without their head coach for Sunday's game after he tested positive.

Update:
The NY Jets have a major roster issue due to covid-19 and injury, however, it's about to get worse after coach Robert Saleh tested positive for the virus.
USA TODAY Sports

Already facing a major problem due to the virus, the Jets are now set to do without their head coach after he tested positive.

Jets' HC Robert Saleh to miss Sunday's game

According to reports on Wednesday, the New York Jets coach Robert Saleh - who tested positive for covid-19 on that day - will now miss Sunday's home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "We're proceeding as if I won't coach on Sunday," Saleh said Friday on a Zoom call with reporters. "If I do come up with two negatives, it would be an easy adjustment. But we're operating as if I will not be there Sunday." Saleh also added that he feels "good" and was waiting for results from a test which he took on Friday morning. In order to clear league protocols and be on the sideline on Sunday, he would have to test negative again on Saturday. For the moment, however, it is tight ends coach Ron Middleton, a former NFL player and longtime assistant who was named as interim coach on Wednesday and is now set to handle the team on Sunday.

The Jets are not in a good place

While critics will have varying views on why the Jets currently have a 3-11 record and are in the middle of their their third three-game losing streak, the reality is New York has been hit very hard by covid-19. There are currently 15 players on the reserve/covid-19 list after they were able to activate wide receiver Jeff Smith and special teamer Justin Hardee on Friday. Indeed, Saleh allowed a little dark humor saying, "The whole season has been filled with adversity. Why not finish it with a little bit more?"

Heading into Sunday's game, it remains unlikely that the Jets will be able to activate any other players. That means that as a result of covid-19 they will be without six starters, which includes four on defense. Where safeties are concerned, both Ashtyn Davis (covid-19) and Elijah Riley (concussion) are out, which in essence completely exposes the position. As it stands the Jets can really only turn to rookie Jason Pinnock who is a converted cornerback or two veterans who joined the team just this week, Will Parks and Kai Nacua. In light of the depleted squad, Saleh was asked whether he felt the game should be postponed. "It's not my decision to make," he said.

Jets' Saleh isn't looking forward to game day

As he goes through his quarantine period in a hotel, Saleh has continued to participate in virtual meetings. Speaking on the experience, he explained that he had contacted Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, who himself was sidelined for one game due to covid-19. Saleh stated that Stefanski had told him he would be "fine" during the week because everything is virtual, however, not so on game day. "He said Sunday is going to be miserable," Saleh said. "So I'm looking for misery." Saleh also added that four of his seven children have tested positive but have shown no symptoms.

Saleh: Middleton the man for the job

While the decision to appoint Middelton as interim coach surprised some given that he has no previous experience as a coach, Saleh believes it was the right choice as Middleton is an experienced and well-respected coach on the staff. Saleh also added that he didn't want to burden one of his with coordinators an expanded portfolio of responsibilities. Middleton for his part admitted that he had head-coaching aspirations earlier in his career, while explaining that he was very much looking forward to the moment. He also disclosed that he would be meeting virtually with Saleh and the staff on Saturday to go over strategy for Sunday's game. "It's been a smooth operation, man," he said. "It's kind of scary, with everything that's going on and whatnot and all the uncertainty, but people are just going about their business."

Zach Wilson getting better?

As the Jets approach Sunday's game, all eyes will once again be on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. The reality is that should Jamison Crowder (calf) not play, which seems likely, Wilson will be without his best three receivers. Starting tight end Ryan Griffin (knee) was sidelines officially this week, while starting guards, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif have both been placed on the reserve/covid-19 list. That being said Saleh believes Wilson, who was the No. 2 overall pick this year, is in "a great place mentally." The coach went on to add that Wilson has been playing "free" and relaxed. This of course comes in contrast to his previously stated concerns about Wilson's ability to play inside of the confines of offensive structure.

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