The Tampa Bay Buccaneers placed Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, increasing their current total to five players with that designation. Wide receiver Jaelon Darden and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches landed on the COVID list last Friday and wide receiver Mike Evans joined them on Monday.
The Buccaneers' cornerback position has worked its way through a long list of injuries in 2021, beginning with Murphy-Bunting's dislocated elbow in the season opener. They have only had their three starting corners – Dean, Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis – active at the same time for four games, and last week's win over Carolina marked the first time that those three were all able to finish an entire game together without injury.
The return to health of a number of defensive backs, including safety Jordan Whitehead, has helped the Bucs' defense improve significantly in recent weeks. In a 9-0 loss to New Orleans and a 32-6 division-clinching win over the Panthers the Buccaneers held consecutive opponents without a touchdown for just the third time in team history.
Now, however, the availability of Dean and Murphy-Bunting for this Sunday's road game against the New York Jets is in doubt. Under the recently-revised NFL COVID protocols, players who test positive and are fully vaccinated can return to the team at any time if they are asymptomatic and generate two negative COVID tests 24 hours apart.
Dean has played in 13 games with 11 starts and has recorded 44 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defensed. Murphy-Bunting has started each of the seven games in which he has played and has 36 tackles, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.