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New England Patriots

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Kyle Dugger #35 of the New England Patriots during warm up before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Safety Kyle Dugger was the only unexplained absence at Patriots practice on Wednesday. Now, we know why he wasn’t with the team.

As first reported by NFL writer Aaron Wilson, the Patriots have placed Dugger on the reserve-COVID-19 list. He is the second player the Patriots have placed on that list this week, after running back J.J. Taylor.

If Dugger is vaccinated, he can return once he has two negative tests separated by at least 24 hours. That mean’s it’s not impossible for him to play Monday night against the Bills. However, if Dugger isn’t vaccinated, he’ll be required to miss a minimum of 10 days per the league’s COVID protocols.

Dugger has yet to miss a game for the Patriots his year, making 10 starts. The second-year safety leads the team with 80 tackles, and is third on the team with three interceptions. He’s the fourth-most used defensive player on the team, having played 81.3% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps this year.

There’s a number of ways the Patriots could fill Dugger’s snaps if the 25-year-old can’t play Monday night. Jalen Mills can be moved from cornerback to safety, with Joejuan Williams or a practice squad corner getting Mills’ snaps on the outside. They also have safety Sean Davis on the practice squad. In another direction, the team could play bigger and put an extra linebacker on the field, although that may be counter-productive against the pass-happy Bills.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.