UPDATE (4:40 p.m. ET): The New England Patriots placed second-year safety Kyle Dugger on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, according to the NFL transaction wire.
Dugger tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a report from ESPN’s Field Yates.
Per NFL rules, if Dugger is vaccinated and asymptomatic, he can be activated off COVID reserve once he returns two negative tests separated by 24 hours. That would make it theoretically possible for him to play Monday night against the Buffalo Bills. If he is unvaccinated, he must sit out a minimum of 10 days.
Dugger was the lone member of the Patriots’ 53-man roster absent from Wednesday’s practice.
ORIGINAL STORY: We now know why Kyle Dugger was absent from Wednesday’s New England Patriots practice.
The Patriots are monitoring a “possible COVID-19-related situation” with the second-year safety, according to a report Wednesday from ESPN’s Field Yates.
Dugger is an integral part of New England’s top-ranked defense, leading the team in tackles this season with 80 and ranking fourth among Patriots defenders in snaps played (81.3%). Only safety Devin McCourty, cornerback J.C. Jackson and outside linebacker Matthew Judon have played more.
The hard-hitting 25-year-old plays multiple positions for the Patriots — strong safety, free safety, slot, linebacker — and is their top matchup option against tight ends, recently locking down Atlanta Falcons star Kyle Pitts. The Patriots preparing to face a Bills that boasts a talented tight end in Dawson Knox, who has seven touchdown catches this season.
The winner of that game will sit atop the AFC East, as the 8-4 Patriots currently hold a half-game lead over the 7-4 Bills.
Dugger was the Patriots’ top pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, going 37th overall out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne. He’s played in all 12 games as an NFL sophomore, starting 10 and grabbing three interceptions.
“He’s big, he’s swole, he’s fast, he can cover, he can hit,” fellow safety Adrian Phillips said last month. “He can do everything you want your safety to do.”
The Patriots already have one player on COVID reserve. Running back J.J. Taylor was placed there Monday. Vaccinated players who test positive can be cleared from the COVID list once they return two negative tests separated by 24 hours, as long as they have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours. Unvaccinated ones must sit out a minimum of 10 days.