The Coronavirus has had a major impact on the New England Patriots, ever since starting quarterback Cam Newton became the first member of the organization to test positive 10 days ago. Since then, two of the team’s games had to be postponed as three more players joined Newton on the Reserve/Covid-19 list: cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive tackles Bill Murray and Byron Cowart — the latter being moved there on Sunday.
Cowart’s positive test on Saturday night actually forced the Patriots to shut down their facilities for a third time in a little more than a week, and to move their upcoming game against the Denver Broncos from Monday to next Sunday. The situation obviously remains critical, but the team did get some positive news again earlier today: no new positives popped up during Sunday’s round of testing, as first reported by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss.
Of course, the Patriots will stay cautious despite no new cases within the building: the facilities at Gillette Stadium will remain closed at least until Wednesday, while only essential personnel is allowed in. Players have been given two days off after the recent rescheduling of the Broncos game, meanwhile, and will not start on-field preparations for the upcoming game until two days from now — if that is possible.
“One thing that we’ve learned this year repeatedly has been we have to be ready to adjust and adapt to changes and modifications in the way we do things and in some cases decisions that really come down to a very short amount of time that we have to be ready to adjust to,” said New England head coach Bill Belichick during a media conference call over the weekend. “We’re certainly taking things day by day, probably hour by hour would be more accurate.”
The Patriots, like the NFL, are well aware that one day of positive testing does not a Covid-free environment make. The team had three days worth of all-negative tests following Stephon Gilmore’s diagnosis late on Tuesday, but Cowart still caught the virus in the days that followed — despite the facility being shut down for three days and the Patriots only returning to work on Saturday in as secure a setting as possible.
While Monday’s all-negative result is therefore encouraging, it is not one that can give the Patriots and the league some lasting clarity about the team’s status.