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Bill Belichick on the Patriots’ Coronavirus situation: ‘There’s nothing more important than the health of the team’

Related: Latest round of Covid-19 tests yields no positive results, but Patriots not in the clear yet

Las Vegas Raiders v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ preparation for their Week 5 game against the Denver Broncos was drastically altered on Wednesday, after the team was informed that cornerback Stephon Gilmore has tested positive for the novel Coronavirus the previous day: the team had to close its facilities for at least two days, and cancel practice on both Wednesday and Thursday — all while making Gilmore their third player to be placed on Reserve/Covid-19.

His positive test also led to head coach Bill Belichick’s media availability being moved back one day. When he joined the video conference room on Thursday morning, there was obviously one topic on everybody’s mind: Covid-19 and what their recent surge in cases means for the Patriots.

Belichick has a pretty straight-forward opinion on the situation his team is in.

“There’s nothing more important than the health of the team,” he said. “I mean, without a healthy team, you don’t have a team. So, that priority number one, I would say not only for our team, but also for their families and people that are close to them. So, that’s always our number one concern and we’ll try to do everything we can to make that the best that we can make it. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s not going to change.

“So, whatever we have to do to do that, than that’ll be what we do. We’ve always approached it that way. This is different, but it’s really based on the same criteria.”

Belichick’s team had its first positive Coronavirus test last Friday, when quarterback Cam Newton was tested positive. Accordingly, the NFL postponed the team’s upcoming game against the Kansas City Chiefs from Sunday to Monday, while the Patriots took two separate planes — one carrying approximately 20 people who have been in close contact with Newton, the other the rest of the team — to fly to Missouri.

In light of Gilmore’s positive test (and possibly defensive tackle Bill Murray’s as well, although there has been no confirmation yet), doubt has also been cast over the Patriots’ upcoming game against the Broncos. For Belichick, however, the questions surrounding the contest are above or at least on a different level than his pay grade.

“These aren’t football decisions. These are medical decisions,” he said. “So, in terms of medical decisions, those fall to medical people. Football decisions fall to football people. And so we will see how it goes. Where we are today, I don’t think we can really plan too far ahead to start talking about Saturday, Sunday, a bunch of others days. There’s a lot that can or can’t happen in the meantime, and as things change and if there are positive or potentially negative developments, then we will look at those.

“I’d say the medical department has kept me abreast of everything, and I’ve certainly learned a lot and tried to understand how this fits into what we are trying to do as a football team and what the medical needs and concerns are. Just trying to balance all that out, but I mean, it’s really not balanced — it’s the health and safe of the team first and then its football second. So, for yesterday and today, we are not in the building and we’ll take it day by day.”

The Patriots, who reportedly had no positive Coronavirus tests on Wednesday, could theoretically return to Gillette Stadium by Friday. As Belichick pointed out, however, the situation remains a fluid one that could change by the hour.

Such is pro football in the year 2020.