Bills' quarantined quarterback Jake Fromm could be important for playoff stretch
Rookie quarterback Jake Fromm and his peculiar role could give the Buffalo Bills a postseason advantage in case of a COVID outbreak.
Fromm is on the NFL’s short list of quarantined quarterbacks. He has been strategically isolated from the team all season long, particularly staying away from fellow quarterbacks Josh Allen and Matt Barkley.
Coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane designated Fromm to the unique role months ago. With a wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts coming up Saturday, if a COVID outbreak was to occur between Allen and Barkley, Buffalo would at least have a capable quarterback under center.
“I would say it’s definitely not the most ideal thing for a rookie coming in and really trying to connect with the other guys, but this is the hand I was dealt,” Fromm said earlier this season. “You got to take on the role 100% and head on and I feel like I’m doing the best I can and really try and develop relationships and develop my game on the field as well. It’s definitely not easy. It takes a lot more work than normal and that’s part of it and let’s go play football.”
Fromm, the former Georgia star who started over Justin Fields before he transferred to Ohio State to become a 2019 Heisman finalist, has appeared on Buffalo’s injury report as “not injured” all season long.
“Sometimes you make decisions in life that you're not sure if they're the right decisions and with Brandon and I making this decision, it wasn't easy not only to separate a player from the team, but also a rookie,” McDermott said. “It's hard enough to acclimate oneself and transition from college to the NFL game and now to kind of be apart has made it all that much harder. And we recognized that and Jake and our staff have just done a phenomenal job of executing that and that’s honestly why we've done it. It could happen to anyone – can happen to any position for that matter – so it's another great learning lesson for us.”
No one wants to see a repeat of what happened to the Denver Broncos, who had none of their quarterbacks available during a 31-3 drubbing from the Saints.
After backup Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19, starter Drew Lock, third stringer Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles on the practice squad were all deemed close contacts.
Unlike Fromm and Buffalo, Denver had no emergency quarterback in isolation. Instead, practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton played quarterback, completing 1-of-9 passes for 13 yards and two interceptions that game.
The Bills have not been immune to positive tests at other positions. This week, for instance, tight end Tyler Kroft and running back T.J. Yeldon were both activated from the Reserve/COVID-19. It was Kroft's second time on the list this season.
Other teams with quarantined quarterbacks
The Tennessee Titans — who hosts the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card game Sunday — appear to be the only other playoff team that has been experimenting with a quarantined quarterback. According to ESPN, DeShone Kizer has been their designated quarterback since signing to the practice squad in November. Trevor Siemian played the same role before New Orleans signed him.
The Cincinnati Bengals took similar precautions with emergency quarterback Kevin Hogan.
The Cleveland Browns are currently facing a tough situation. The franchise will make its first playoff appearance since the 2002 season when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, but the Browns will be without coach Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio, receiver KhaDarel Hodges, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and defensive backs coach Jeff Howard. All tested positive Tuesday.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will coach the wild-card game in absence of Stefanski.
That is, if no one else within the Browns organization tests positive or is registered as a close contact. Cleveland has six other players and three additional coaches currently on the COVID-19 reserve list or in isolation.
Marquel Slaughter is a sports reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle. For unlimited access to his stories, please subscribe at the top of the democratandchronicle.com homepage or activate your digital account today. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.