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UPDATE: Alvin Kamara could be eligible for Wild Card weekend

2020’s all-purpose touchdown leader will miss Week 17 and his status is in question for the Saints’ opening playoff game.

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been moved to the Reserve/COVID list.

The news was first reported by NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill as Kamara awaited confirmation of his initial positive test.

Missing Alvin Kamara this weekend against the Carolina Panthers keeps the former offensive rookie of the year from achieving his first 1,000-yard rushing season. He was only 68 rushing yards away. He was also in position to extend his franchise record and league-leading 21 touchdowns as well.

This move will likely thrust his backfield partner Latavius Murray into a more expanded role as the Saints featured back for at least the final regular season matchup. I’d expect some reps and opportunities for Ty Montgomery as well, who Sean Payton mentioned by name on Friday before the news broke.

With the COVID return timeline requiring at least a 10-day absence (if asymptomatic) it seems very unlikely that Kamara would be able to return for the Saints’ opening playoff game if they cannot find their way into the #1 seed this weekend. The 10-day timer will either start from Thursday or on Friday depending on when the initial test was taken. If symptoms do not come on later, that would mark his earliest return, provided he returns two negative tests in that window

If symptoms set on at a later date, the new 10-day timer will begin from his first experienced symptoms. There are more requirements in that case which are outlined here by Tom Pelissero.

As Katherine Terrell of The Athletic points out, if the Wild Card game is next for the Saints, when the game is scheduled also plays a role.

Best-case scenario for the Saints is to win this weekend at Carolina and be aided by a Green Bay Packers loss and Seattle Seahawks win into the first seed in the NFC. However, if that does not happen and the Saints have to play in the Wild Card round, Kamara will be a massive loss no doubt.

There’s no arguing that a Saints team with Alvin Kamara is at its best. But they have won without him, without record-setting receiver Michael Thomas, and without future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. Obviously having all of those pieces on the field for the first time in many weeks would be the ideal situation, but this team has found ways to win in situations like this before.

If New Orleans does have to play in the Wild Card round without Kamara, there is help on the way. The team is expected to return both receivers Michael Thomas and Deonte Harris that week, would have the great fortune of falling back on Latavius Murray to lead the way in the run game, and ideally return a key defensive player in Marcus Williams. New Orleans has proven time and time again to be the deepest roster in the NFL. Here may arise another test.

Updated Friday, January 1, 2020 5:05 PM CT

Reportedly, Alvin Kamara, if asymptomatic would be eligible to return if the Saints have to play in the Wild Card round. If New Orleans does not lock up the number one seed in the NFC but end up playing their first game on Sunday, January 10th as opposed to Saturday, January 9th; the Pro Bowl back could return to the field.

He would, however, have to play without practicing throughout the week.

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