Normally, the New England Patriots would be getting ready for their bye this week and to reassess after having played five regular season games. However, “normal” is a relative term in the year that is 2020: with the Coronavirus pandemic still raging in the United States, pro football also had to made some adjustments — including changing the Patriots’ schedule.
Their game against the Denver Broncos was originally scheduled for last Sunday, but had to be moved twice after players tested positive for Covid-19 in New England. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was diagnosed last Tuesday, prompting the NFL to postpone the contest to Monday. When defensive tackle Byron Cowart also tested positive on Saturday, the game was moved to another week altogether while Week 5 was turned into the Patriots’ new bye.
Two days after the rescheduling, however, New England appears to be on track to host the Broncos — at least according to Bill Belichick. The Patriots’ head coach was asked about the upcoming game during a media conference call on Tuesday, and whether or not he and his club would be on track to continue working and meeting in a normal capacity after shutting down the facility thrice over the last 11 days.
“We’re on track to play on Sunday,” said Belichick. “Let’s put it that way.”
Heading into last Sunday, the Patriots were able to practice only once in between facility closures. The team returned from a trip to Kansas City late on Monday before Gilmore tested positive the next day. While the players eventually gathered at Gillette Stadium again for a Saturday walkthrough, Cowart’s diagnosis forced another disruption. Now, the team is planning to return to the practice fields on Wednesday — if no new positives pop up.
For Belichick, however, this situation is not unlike others he and his club have experienced over the course of the year.
“We’ve been dealing with changes all year, going all the way back to the spring, the start of the offseason program, virtual meetings, OTAs, minicamp, training camp,” he said “So, I think we all have gone through this year with a very flexible attitude and understanding that things are going to change and we’re going to have to make adjustments. I think that the players, the coaches, the staff, that everybody’s handled it pretty well.
“Whatever we’ve had to do, we’ve done. We’ve tried to make the best out of our opportunities, and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
As things currently stand, the Patriots will host the Broncos at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Back-to-back days with no positive Coronavirus tests are an encouraging development, but as Belichick pointed out during his presser, New England knows that it will need to stay vigilant and ready to make changes on short notice — as has been the case ever since quarterback Cam Newton became the team’s first Covid-19 case earlier this month.
“We know we’re going to have to be fluid and flexible,” said Belichick. “I don’t think that’s going to change, and so we’ll just kind of take it day by day and do the best we can with each opportunity that we get. If we have to change off our normal routine — with what’s been normal this year, let’s put it that way — then we’ll do that. But that’s the way the whole year has gone, so I don’t think it will be any different.”