TAMPA — The Bucs may have to play one of their biggest games of the season without one of their biggest deep threats.
Receiver Antonio Brown tested positive for the coronavirus and was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, meaning he could miss Sunday’s game against the Rams.
Because he is vaccinated, Brown could be eligible to play if he is asymptomatic and has two negative coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart.
The Bucs are preparing as if Brown won’t be able to play, though there is time for him to come off the COVID-19 list.
“That would be gravy,” coach Bruce Arians said of Brown being able to play.
Linebacker Kevin Minter, the special teams captain, and practice squad receiver Travis Jonsen tested positive Monday, the Bucs announced.
“With (Brown), we’ve got plenty of good guys that have proven track records at that position,” Arians said. “Kevin will be missed as far as special teams, but we’ve got some young guys ready to roll.”
Brown led the Bucs with 121 yards receiving, including a 47-yard touchdown, in a 31-29 win over the Cowboys to kick off the season two weeks ago. In Sunday’s 48-25 win over the Falcons, he was limited to one reception for 17 yards in the second quarter.
The Bucs (2-0) are deep at receiver, but Brown appears to have found his burst after having offseason knee surgery.
Receiver Scotty Miller has played only 20 offensive snaps this season and has yet to make a reception. Second-year pro Tyler Johnson had one catch for 5 yards Sunday, his only reception of the season.
The Bucs’ passing game typically runs through Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but since joining the team in 2020 after serving an eight-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, Brown has become an integral part of the offense and one of its biggest deep threats.
Outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul has a shoulder injury, and kick returner/receiver Jaydon Mickens has a hip issue and did not practice Wednesday,
If Mickens is unable to go, coupled with Brown’s situation, rookie Jaelon Darden could make his NFL playing debut as a kick returner Sunday.
“We’ll look at it,” Arians said. “We’ve got three guys: Jaelon. Antoine Winfield. Scotty. Scotty looked good when he caught the kickoff and took it around the edge. We’ve got capable guys, and we’ll look and see how it goes.”
• • •
Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.