Players have still not reconvened at Gillette Stadium after the New England Patriots’ fourth positive Coronavirus test — defensive tackle Byron Cowart — forced a shutdown of the facilities as well as postponement of the game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The plan, however, is for players to return on Wednesday to start the on-field preparation for the upcoming contest against Denver, which will now take place on Sunday at 1 pm.
The chances of the Patriots actually being able to stick with their plan look good, despite the recent spike in cases. After all, the team has had no positive tests since it was notified of Cowart’s results late o Saturday: Sunday’s round of testing came back all-negative, and so did Monday’s as NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero first reported earlier today.
New England, of course, will continue to take a cautious approach given the virus’ incubation period and the fact that Cowart was the fourth player that had to be moved to the Reserve/Covid-19 list: quarterback Cam Newton was the club’s first positive case on October 2, followed by practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray and cornerback Stephon Gilmore — the two tested positive last Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
The number of cases now staying at four is good news for a Patriots team that could soon get some talent back: Newton is eligible to return after remaining asymptomatic and having spend 10-plus days on the NFL’s reserve list, while Gilmore hinted at a timely return on Monday by posting on social media that he would be “ready to be back in action.” Both could be on the field if the squad starts practicing again on Wednesday.
Bill Belichick, however, did not give an update on their respective statuses during a media conference call on Tuesday morning.
“I’m not sure exactly what the schedule is in terms of when those guys will do the things they need to do,” the Patriots’ head coach pointed out. “Some of that has to be scheduled outside of the building and so forth. So, I’ll leave that to the medical department. I don’t know exactly what their schedule is.”
Newton and Gilmore returning would be more good news for a team that was hit hard by Covid-19 over the last two weeks. The Patriots are, of course, still not in the clear, but back-to-back tests coming back without any new infections is an encouraging sign nevertheless.