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Jamaal Williams, Kamal Martin out for 49ers game after being in close contact with AJ Dillon

Jim Owczarski
Packers News

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers will now be without three players for Thursday’s scheduled game in San Francisco because of COVID-19 protocols.

Running back Jamaal Williams and linebacker Kamal Martin were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday as high-risk, close contacts to running back AJ Dillon. Dillon was placed on the list Monday after he tested positive for the virus following his test Sunday morning.

According to the league, Williams was determined to have been a high-risk close contact from the game Sunday against Minnesota. Martin’s close contact came off the field.

As for concerns over the safety of the Packers playing at San Francisco on Thursday, NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills said, “In those instances where we’ve postponed games, it’s been where we have what we consider to be ongoing transmission for which we don’t have as much of a ... maybe as much of an understanding of. If there’s a situation where we have a number of cases and we can’t find a common thread, we can’t find a linkage and we’re having difficulty or have an unusually high number of high-risk contacts, then those are situations where I think you’ve seen it from the past where we’ve considered postponement.

Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams (30) against Minnesota Vikings free safety Anthony Harris (41) and middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) on November 1, 2020, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

“But we’ve had a large number of situations where we’ve had one positive test, a small number of high-risk contacts and clubs have been able to safely continue operations through that time. It’s something that we continue to monitor on a day-by-day basis based on the test results but that’s where we are as of (Tuesday).”

Per league protocols, those deemed as a high-risk close contact with a player who tests positive must be held out of the facility for five days since they were last in close contact with an individual who tested positive.

It does not mean those players — Williams and Martin in the Packers’ case — have the virus, but they are at a higher vulnerability for it.

Due to positive game-day tests by Dillon and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey and the contact tracing conducted afterward, the league amended its mask protocols in its memo Tuesday.

Now, masks are mandatory for all pre- and postgame interactions. They are highly encouraged to be worn on the sideline for players who come on and off the field of play.

“The high-risk close contacts, those are avoidable if you are keeping physical distancing and even as important or more important is the wearing of the mask,” NFL chief football administrative officer Dawn Aponte said Tuesday. “So if these player are on the sideline and they mask up and they try to keep their distance the best they can, that will make a difference in terms of deeming them high-risk.”

Dr. Sills clarified what Dillon and Humphrey’s game-day positive test meant, noting that tests administered Sunday morning were not processed until late Sunday night. He said in any instance where a positive test came back while a team was playing, any player, coach or staff member who was positive would be pulled off the field.

In regard to Thursday night’s game, that scenario seems unlikely as the Packers would know about any Wednesday positive test before kickoff. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he didn’t have reservations about traveling and playing the game and receiver Davante Adams said he wants to be safe but also wouldn’t sit out because of positive tests.

“Obviously, this is kind of what we signed up for, knowing what we're dealing with, with COVID, coming into this season,” Adams said. “So honestly I kind of thought it would be a little bit more than what it's been throughout the league as far as cases. So you hope it's as little as possible, but we signed up for this type of quote-unquote risk, I guess you could say. So we've got to go out and ball, and once somebody near you, or if you go down with it, then it's the next man up and we'll deal with it from there.”

With Williams, Dillon and Martin on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Packers can bring up three players to the active 53-person roster without using a transaction and then subjecting them to waivers. If it is a practice squad player, this designation would not count against the two promotions allowed.

As of Tuesday, Packers starting running back Aaron Jones’ status for the game remains in doubt due to a calf strain suffered Oct. 22 before the team traveled to Houston, so second-year running back Dexter Williams is the only healthy full-time, traditional running back on the roster.

“He’s done a nice job of growing up in the offense and feeling more comfortable with the checks and his responsibilities in pass blocking and route running,” Rodgers said of Dexter Williams. “I’m not sure if it’s because of a recent addition to his family but it seems like he’s a little more settled this year and feeling more confident. I’m excited about getting opportunities. He’s a really good kid who cares about it a lot. He’s going to be asked to do some things on Thursday.”

Dexter Williams, who is on the practice squad, was called up to play against the Texans due to Jones’ injury. He did not appear on offense and missed a block on special teams that led to a blocked punt.

Tyler Ervin is listed as a running back but he practices and plays as a wide receiver. He has four rushes on the season for 43 yards but has been nursing a wrist injury for several weeks. He returned to action against Minnesota and caught one pass on three targets for seven yards.

Fullback John Lovett is dealing with a knee injury, but practice squad tight end Dominique Dafney has experience running the ball in college at Indiana State.

Martin has been a starter at inside linebacker since coming off injured reserve for the game in Houston. Unlike at running back, the Packers have options on the active roster and practice squad to replace him.

The Packers can activate season-opening starter Christian Kirksey (pectoral) off IR before they leave for California, though they would have to make a corresponding roster to move to accommodate him. The team also has Krys Barnes, Ty Summers and the recently acquired James Burgess on the active roster, while De’Jon Harris is on the practice squad.