The Houston Texans closed their facility Thursday after one of their players tested positive for COVID-19.
Interim coach Romeo Crennel said that Mercilus and Cole were identified as close contacts to Martin, who tested positive for the coronavirus, and are considered "high risk," meaning they cannot play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Texans announced that they were informed of the positive test Wednesday night, and all their operations Thursday will be conducted virtually.
"In consultation with the NFL and medical experts, we have made the decision to close the facility and conduct all operations virtually today," the team said in a statement Thursday morning. "The player immediately self-isolated, and contact tracing has begun. We will follow the NFL's intensive protocols and guidance regarding the team's operations. The health and safety of our team, as well as our entire staff, are of highest priority."
Crennel said he hopes to hold a practice on Friday, but that depends on the results of the other tests taken Thursday and whether the NFL lets the team back into the building.
"Now, what I've noticed, as the medical experts have said, as the weather gets colder, then there's going to be more cases," Crennel said when asked if he was concerned about the positive tests. "And that seems to be the case in the NFL, because there are several other teams who have gone through the same thing that we're going through right now, this week.
"So I'm concerned about ... what happens going forward, particularly if a large number on your team have come in close contact with somebody or you have more than one positive case, then what's going to happen? So that's an unknown, and we will adjust and we will adapt as we need to and have to down the road if that occurs."
Crennel said neither Martin nor guard Max Scharping, the two Texans players who have tested positive since the start of training camp, are displaying any "major symptoms."
With Mercilus and Martin sidelined, rookie Jonathan Greenard should see more defensive snaps. He has primarily played on special teams and has played 11 snaps on defense over three games. Crennel said the rookie feels ready to play and that "we're probably going to have to put him out there."
"It's never easy when you lose your top guys, and these are some top guys on defense for us," Crennel said. "But one of the things I always talk to the players about in their roles, how important their roles are, that they have to be ready to step up and play when called on. I always tell them that if you're in the game when the ball is snapped, you are a starter and you're expected to react and respond as a starter. So hopefully they have been in their playbooks, they have been taking advantage of the reps that they get on the practice field or on the show team and when they get an opportunity to go into the game, it can be a positive outcome for them and for us."
The Texans play the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday, and there has been no official word yet on the status of that game. Crennel said "the league wants to play the game, if possible," but a decision will not be made until Friday at the earliest.