Tampa Bay Buccaneers won't have Devin White, Shaq Barrett, Steve McLendon on Sunday

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without three key members of their defense Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Inside linebacker Devin White, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett and defensive lineman Steve McLendon were placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

Placement on the list means a player has either tested positive or been deemed a close contact to someone who has.

The Bucs do not disclose who tests positive, but Barrett, a Pro Bowler in 2019, wound up on the list as a close contact, his wife wrote on Instagram.

"Shaquil's is negative and has been all week, however [he] was in close proximity of someone who tested positive. So he will remain quarantined for the next five days," Jordanna Barrett posted.

"Can't control other people's actions. Just our own. Regardless of how safe we have been ... and following every precautionary possible. Sometimes people choose other choices that result in unfair circumstances. But rest assured to everyone asking. We were not the ones who were reckless and exposed the team. So to the fans mad...some things are out of our control. It is what it is. Shaquil will be back for the playoffs."

The NFL's COVID-19 protocols state that a close contact who continues to test negative for five straight days can return to the team. But if a player tests positive, he must wait at least 10 days since his positive test was collected -- or longer if he is experiencing symptoms -- and has to be cleared by a doctor, which would jeopardize that player's availability for the playoffs.

White's 140 tackles are third most in the league and his nine sacks -- including three two weeks ago when the Bucs last played the Falcons -- are a team high. Barrett has eight sacks, with he and White accounting for over 36% of the Bucs' team total this season.

The Bucs acquired McLendon from the New York Jets in October to help replace Vita Vea, who landed on injured reserve in Week 5, and he has helped maintain their footing as the league's top-ranked run defense.

The trio's placement on the reserve/COVID-19 list is unrelated to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' COVID-19 scare this week, which was caused by a false positive test of a close contact. The Bucs anticipate Bowles will be able to return to coach Sunday.

The Bucs already have clinched a playoff spot, but huge implications remain for Sunday's game. With a win against the Falcons, the Bucs would secure the fifth seed in the NFC, which would mean they would face the yet-to-be decided winner of a weak NFC East. If they lose Sunday, and the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals, the Bucs would face the Seattle Seahawks (11-4), New Orleans Saints (11-4) or Green Bay Packers (12-3).