Sean McDermott provided updates regarding the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday as the Buffalo Bills concluded their bye week and began preparations for the final six games of the regular season, beginning Sunday at home against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Cornerback Josh Norman remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive on Nov. 15. Norman did not travel with the Bills for their game in Arizona that week, nor did cornerback Levi Wallace, safety Dean Marlowe, or tight end Tyler Kroft – all of whom were identified as potential close contacts.
McDermott said that Wallace, Marlowe, and Kroft will be back with the team this week.
The Bills coach also announced tight end Tommy Sweeney will miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle known to stem from COVID-19 infections.
Sweeney has not appeared in a game this season after missing all of training camp with a foot injury and beginning the campaign on the physically unable to perform list. He was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list in October after fellow tight end Dawson Knox tested positive for the coronavirus.
A seventh-round pick in 2019, Sweeney appeared in six games for the Bills last season and accumulated 114 yards on eight receptions.
"I saw him today," McDermott said. "He looks in good spirits. It's unfortunate, he's had a rough year with the injury the early part of the year and then now with the COVID and then the residual piece of the COVID, it appears, from my position. It's unfortunate but we know that he's a good football player and we know he's a guy that we believe in and can't wait to get back on the field when we can here."
Here are more notes from Monday's sessions with McDermott, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
No announcements yet on the offensive line
McDermott did not specify whether or not Cody Ford will be available this week after missing the game against Arizona with an ankle injury, though he did offer optimism regarding the health of the offensive line as a whole.
"We feel good about a number of the guys up front," McDermott said. "We're getting healthier now, finally. It's been a while since we've had a consistent lineup, so we've got some guys and some options available to us."
If Ford is available, it would represent the first time this season that the Bills have had their full stable of players healthy on the offensive line. Jon Feliciano spent the first seven weeks on injured reserve, Mitch Morse missed time with a concussion, and Ford has dealt with injuries to both his knee and ankle.
Which five linemen would start in a full-health scenario remains to be seen. McDermott announced last week that Morse's absence from the lineup in Arizona was not injury related, but a coach's decision as the Bills looked to ride the momentum from the prior week's win over Seattle.
Feliciano started at center against the Cardinals, with Ike Boettger and Brian Winters at the guard positions. Dion Dawkins and Daryl Williams have been mainstays at the left and right tackle positions, respectively.
"I just think we had some momentum coming off of the two games, the two wins we had there back-to-back when Mitch was out," McDermott said. "And that doesn't say anything in particular about Mitch, it's more so we had some momentum going and some continuity for a small window of time and so we just felt like that was the right lineup for that week. He's in the mix this week, as are some others, and we'll see how the week flows."
McDermott, Daboll, and Frazier said last week that they planned to use the bye to take detailed looks into how they can improve at both running the football and defending the run.
Daboll said the process extended to all phases of the game and was no different than what's been his experience throughout his NFL career.
"You look at a lot of different things," he said. "You start with yourself, and you look at formations and motions and shifts and where you're trying to gain advantage in the running game, whether that's by a certain technique of a defensive lineman or a force issue with a safety, or how to get it where we need to get it.
"You take a look at the fundamentals of what we're doing and how we're teaching it. Maybe we can change a drill. You go back to the process of trying to improve things. It's not necessarily the thing right in front of your face, sometimes it's another thing."
Frazier said some of what showed up was already addressed Monday.
"What we try to do is go back and look at some of the runs that have hurt us and what we're doing versus those runs and how we can improve some of our techniques, some of our fundamentals against some of those runs that show up repeatedly," he said.
"I think our guys did a good job today when we were going through practice as we went through some of those runs that we evaluated during the bye week that really hurt us. Hopefully, we'll be better against those runs going forward. And we'll hit them again throughout the week because, as you know, it's a copycat league. When people see something that hurts you, they put it in their offense. So, we'll get some of those things again this week.