Wide receivers coach Kevin Garver also cleared protocols and will coach in Sunday’s game. Assistant head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin had assumed Arians’ head-coaching duties during the week.
The Buccaneers also activated cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting from the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday. Both players are listed as questionable (illness) against the Jets, the team said, giving the Tampa Bay defense a huge boost after it was announced Friday that both starting outside linebackers — Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul — would miss Sunday’s game because of injuries.
Arians and Garver were able to make the trip with the team. Murphy-Bunting and Dean had to travel separately due to the timing of their tests.
Arians, who is fully vaccinated, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and was dealing with mild symptoms, mainly a cough, he told ESPN. Under new rules adopted this week, which reflect altered guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NFL shortened the quarantine period for individuals who test positive from 10 days to five days.
“[We] always want our leader around,” Goodwin said of Arians on Friday. “He’s the head guy so if we can get him back, [we’ll] get him back and keep our mojo going.”
Arians, 69, has had multiple health issues in his career, including a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2007, a skin cancer diagnosis in 2013 and renal cell carcinoma that required part of his kidney to be removed in 2017. He was required to undergo a physical to ensure he was healthy enough to coach the Buccaneers before accepting the job in 2019 and has not had any documented health concerns while in Tampa.
The Buccaneers activated wide receiver Mike Evans from the COVID-19 list Friday. He also is questionable for Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Evans returned to practice Friday for the first time since suffering the injury in Week 15.
Evans’ presence could help alleviate concern over fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown‘s ankle, which Goodwin said Brown tweaked last week after his 10-catch performance against the Carolina Panthers. Brown, too, is questionable, and the priority is keeping both Brown and Evans healthy for the postseason, although the Bucs are also vying for higher seeding in the NFC. They’re currently in fourth behind the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams.
The Bucs still have two players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: wide receiver/kick returner Jaelon Darden, who was placed on the list Dec. 23, and punter Bradley Pinion, who missed last week with a right hip injury.