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Rookie QB Ehlinger to start if Wentz isn't cleared from Reserve/COVID-19 list by Sunday's game

Colts coach Frank Reich also confirmed he spoke with last season's quarterback Philip Rivers about the situation.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts placed quarterback Carson Wentz on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, but he still hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's game.

Following Tuesday's announcement of revised protocols after the CDC changed its guidelines for those who are asymptomatic, Wentz could play against the Las Vegas Raiders.

"If he clears, according to the protocol, his fifth day would be Sunday and in theory would be available for the game, if he clears," Colts coach Frank Reich said in a press conference Wednesday. "In the meantime, he’ll be in meetings virtually preparing so that if he does clear, that he could play."

Reich also said rookie Sam Ehlinger is the starter and will prepare for it all week but make adjustments, if necessary.

"I think Sam is made for moments like this. I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s got that special ‘it’ factor. He’s got really good quarterback skills. He’s continued to improve," Reich said. "I’m excited about the opportunity he has this week to prepare, and then we’ll see how it plays out as the week goes on."

Credit: AP
File- This Jan. 9, 2021, file photo shows Indianapolis Colts quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throwing a pass during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Buffalo Bills, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

Reich also confirmed he recently spoke with last season's quarterback, Philip Rivers, who announced his retirement in January after 17 seasons in the NFL.

"I have talked to him about our situation here, but there is nothing to report and no other further comment at this point," Reich said. "Sam is our starter, and I’m happy for the opportunity Sam has."

It was not immediately clear whether Wentz tested positive for the virus or was deemed a close contact to someone else who had tested positive.

The NFL is reducing quarantine time for players who test positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, including unvaccinated players, to five days from 10, according to two people familiar with the protocols. 

On Monday, safety Jahleel Addae, cornerback T.J. Carrie, linebacker Malik Jefferson, running back Marlon Mack and tackle Braden Smith were all placed on the list. 

They join seven other players previously placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, including 2020 All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the New England Patriots in Week 15. Also on the list are wide receiver Zach Pascal and guard Quenton Nelson.

Credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) throws under pressure from Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Josh Allen (41) in the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021.

The Colts (9-6) are scheduled to play the Raiders (8-7) on Sunday, Jan. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.

Last week, the Colts continued their late-season surge with a gritty 22-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

They earned the road win despite missing Leonard and four starting offensive linemen. The Colts have won three straight and six of their past seven.

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