Sean McDermott explains how the Bills handled having a player test positive for COVID-19

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Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox (88) readies in position during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Brett Carlsen)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the first time during the regular season, the Bills had a player test positive for COVID-19.

The Bills announced Saturday second-year tight end Dawson Knox tested positive for coronavirus. They already planned on not having him for the Jets game, he was ruled out with a calf injury but it affected three other players.

Tight ends Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney and Nate Becker were also placed on the NFL’s COVID-19 list because it was determined through contract tracing, part of the league’s protocols, that those players came in close contact with Knox.

Since the announcement came on Saturday, after the game on Sunday was the first chance we had to ask the team about the situation.

“Yeah it’s unfortunate, that’s the reality of our world so we’re trying to manage it like everyone else is out there, trying to make smart decisions and through the course of this season we expect, you know this may come up and it did come up,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said after a 18-10 win over the Jets.

“The unfortunate part is when you lose players to it, number one you’re always wanting to make sure they’re medically okay and hanging in there and then the guys that we lost because of the contact tracing is unfortunate. But again we just have to continue to learn through this, it’s new for all of us in terms of what we can and can’t do and trying to play a football season at the same time.”

Smith is the only one it really impacted as far as not playing against the Jets because Sweeney is still on the PUP list and Becker was on the practice squad.

So that left Tyler Kroft and undrafted rookie Reggie Gilliam as the only two tight ends on the active roster for the game. Kroft missed the meeting where it was determined players came in close contact with Knox because he was with his wife, Lexi as she gave birth to their baby girl Grace.

Lexi was in labor for more than 24 hours so Tyler missed practice on Thursday. He did return for their walk through practice on Friday but missed that meeting in the morning so that’s why he was good to go for the game and did not have to go on the COVID-19 list.

As for why Gilliam wasn’t exposed I asked McDermott about that after the game.

“We have these tracers so that’s what we go off of and Reggie bounces in and out of that meeting and into some other meetings as well from time to time so we really go by the letter of the law. Listen we’re trying to be as diligent as we can be and that’s what we have to do,” McDermott said.

“Thankfully Tyler’s wife was giving birth, what an awesome moment right? And then to come in here and get a big catch like he had for a key moment for us in the game so it was just awesome to see the mentally toughness more than anything that he’s shown to be there for his wife on Thursday and then to be able to come in and play at a high level like he did today.”

Kroft had the longest play for the Bills catching a 38-yard pass down the sideline in the fourth quarter.

And while it was unexpected news about Knox as they were about to head to New Jersey on Saturday, McDermott says the players rallied around each other.

“The players man they were phenomenal, really cool to watch how they came in and obviously they wanted to know what was going on and by then they had heard some of it but we try to do a great job of communicating and then went out there and had what we call a mock game or dress rehearsal practice,” McDermott said describing the timeline of how things unfolded over the weekend.

“They [the players] care first and foremost for their teammates but they were unphased after that. To come here we made adjustments here as well with the meetings, we went virtual last night and in terms of the meals the guys had to come in and grab their meal and go in a bag and go back to the room so just true professional effort and a character win for us.”

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