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Chiefs' Hitchens placed on reserve/COVID-19 list

By Herbie Teope
The Kansas City Star/TNS

The Chiefs could be without another starting linebacker for the short term - and not because of an injury.

Anthony Hitchens was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, according to Tuesday’s NFL Transactions report.

A player’s appearance on the list doesn’t necessarily indicate a positive test. The player might instead be considered a “high-risk contact” after being exposed to someone who has tested positive. It is unclear at this point which scenario applies to Hitchens, but he will need to clear NFL-mandated health protocols before being allowed to return.

The Chiefs would find themselves in a bad spot at the linebacker position if Hitchens, whose 78 tackles rank second on the team, misses time with two regular-season games to go before the postseason.

Damien Wilson, who starts alongside Hitchens, has missed two straight games with a knee injury. The team’s depth at linebacker is further strained after Emmanuel Smith suffered a hamstring injury in Week 15. Dorian O’Daniel, a standout on special teams, recently landed on injured reserve with an ankle injury.

The remaining linebackers on the Chiefs’ active 53-player roster are Ben Niemann, Darius Harris and rookie Willie Gay Jr.

Hitchens is the seventh Chiefs player to land on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Previously, wide receiver Mecole Hardman, fullback Anthony Sherman, defensive tackle Chris Jones, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, left tackle Eric Fisher and former practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and defensive tackle Braxton Hoyett all landed on the list.

Of that group, Sherman missed three games before returning and Hardman recently discussed his time on the COVID-19 list. Jones spent one day away from the team before being cleared.

The pandemic also affected a key member of the Chiefs’ staff, as vice president of sports and performance Rick Burkholder, who also serves as the team’s infectious control officer, tested positive for COVID-19 and had to spend time away from the team.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens during a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on Nov. 22, 2020, in Las Vegas.