Alvin Kamara, the star running back for the New Orleans Saints and one of the best players in the N.F.L. this season, has been placed on the N.F.L.’s Covid-19 reserve list, a move that will keep him out of the team’s regular-season finale on Sunday and that may jeopardize his chances to appear in the team’s first game of the playoffs.
The league did not specify whether Kamara had tested positive or had come into contact with someone who had tested positive. But a person familiar with the league’s testing protocol said Kamara had indeed tested positive, which means he must isolate for at least 10 days and may return if he is asymptomatic at the end of that period.
The playoffs start next weekend, and Kamara’s availability would depend on when he gave the sample that tested positive — information that has not been made public.
However, the Saints (11-4) have a shot at getting a rest until the second weekend of the playoffs, when Kamara will be back unless he has Covid symptoms. To get that rest, they would have to end up as the top seed in their conference.
The Saints have already won the their division, the N.F.C. South, but are battling with the Green Bay Packers (12-3) and the Seattle Seahawks (11-4) for the No. 1 seed. Under a new playoff format introduced this season, only the top-seeded team will receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
To gain the bye, the Saints would have to win their game Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., against the Carolina Panthers (5-10), despite Kamara’s absence, and would also need the Packers to lose to the Chicago Bears (8-7) and the Seahawks to beat the San Francisco 49ers.
Kamara, 25, is coming off the best game of his four-year career, having rushed for six touchdowns on Christmas Day to tie a 91-year-old league record set by Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals in 1929.
This season, Kamara has rushed for a career-high 932 yards and a league-leading 16 touchdowns. He has also caught 83 passes for 756 yards and five touchdowns.