Just four days after reports broke that quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive for the Coronavirus, the New England Patriots have another case within the organization: Tuesday’s round of tests has revealed that cornerback Stephon Gilmore has also contracted Covid-19. The 30-year-old remains asymptomatic as of Wednesday, but the situation is obviously still in its developing stages.
How Gilmore testing positive will impact the Patriots’ game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday cannot yet definitively be said, but the league is reportedly assessing the situation but trying to get the game to be played. Either way, let’s take an initial look — based on the information available — what the situation means for New England.
Patriots have to hope not to turn into the Titans
While the Patriots have only two confirmed positive cases so far — a third player, defensive tackle Bill Murray, has also been moved to the Reserve/Covid-19 list — seeing Gilmore pick up the virus has to be concerning. The veteran cornerback was among the approximately 20 people who have been determined as having been as close contact with Cam Newton, and it remains to be seen whether or not any of the others also test positive in the coming days. If that happens, the situation could spiral out of control rather quickly.
The Tennessee Titans, after all, have shown that the virus can continue to spread even if all precautionary measures are taken in a timely manner: the team had its first positive test on September 24, with a second positive result coming in two days later. The Titans then visited the Minnesota Vikings on September 27, with an additional eight people being tested as positive on September 29. As of today, not even two weeks after the initial diagnosis, a total of 22 people associated with the organization have tested positive.
With that in mind:
Players and staff will be watched closely over the next few hours...
While only Newton and Gilmore have tested positive so far, what is going on in Tennessee shows us that statuses can change quickly. Needless to say that all of New England — the players, coaches and other staff members — will be watched closely over the next few hours and days while preparing for the upcoming game away from Gillette Stadium. Any new developments could impact whether or not Sunday’s contest will actually be played.
A special eye will certainly be kept on the aforementioned group of players that was in close contact with Newton and by extension Gilmore. Which players or staff members are among them is not known at this point in time, but it is relatively safe to assume that the quarterback room — backups Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, practice squad QB Jake Dolegala, position coach Jedd Fisch, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — might be among them.
Gilmore will miss his first game since 2017
With Gilmore being moved to the Patriots’ Reserve/Covid-19 list, he will be out at least five days and possibly more in case he develops any Coronavirus symptoms. This means that he will certainly miss Sunday’s game against the Broncos in case it does get played. For Gilmore, this would mark his first absence since he missed three games during the 2017 season because of a concussion. Since then, the All-Pro has started a combined 51 straight regular season and playoff games for the club.
The Patriots’ cornerback group will have to step up
The well-being of Gilmore and the rest of the Patriots’ players and staff is obviously imperative, and the number one priority in this situation. That said, there is a chance that New England will have to play a game on Sunday regardless of today’s news. If that is the case, the defense will have to rely on its positional depth to get the job done. Luckily for the Patriots, they have one of the deepest cornerback groups in the NFL available.
Gilmore’s role as the team’s number one boundary cornerback will likely go to third-year man J.C. Jackson, with veteran Jason McCourty another option. The team also has Joejuan Williams and Myles Bryant on its roster, as well as slot cornerback Jonathan Jones. The group is undoubtably a better one with the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year available, but it is built in a way to withstand the blow that is his absence.