After having to send three of their players to the NFL’s Reserve/Covid-19 list over the course of the last week, the New England Patriots appeared to be on the verge of a possible Coronavirus outbreak within the organization. However, they did receive some good news on back-to-back days now: after having no positive test results during Wednesday’s round of screening, the team also received an all-negative back for Thursday’s tests.
After cornerback Stephon Gilmore had tested positive for the Coronavirus on Tuesday — one day after traveling with the team to Kansas City and playing all 56 of New England’s defensive snaps against the Chiefs — the club decided to shut down its facilities at Gillette Stadium. Despite the latest test results, however, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the team will not return just yet and continue to work remotely through at least Friday.
The NFL’s decision to move the Patriots’ Week 5 game against the Denver Broncos from Sunday to Monday gives the team more flexibility to make decisions like this. The hope is now that the club will return on Saturday, to at least get two more days of on-field work in before taking on the visiting Broncos on Monday afternoon.
Of course, that all depends on whether or not future test results over the coming days will also come back negative. That is not a given, however, considering that the incubation time for Covid-19 is five to six days on average and that contract tracing has reportedly “identified multiple Patriots players as close/high-risk contacts with Stephon Gilmore.”
New England erring on the side of caution is therefore the sensible thing to do.
“We made the decision to close the facility for the health and safety of our team,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said during a media conference call on Thursday. “That’s always priority number one. We have continued our preparations for Denver with virtual calls and we’ll just kind of take the situation day by day. When we feel that it’s safe for everyone to come back, then we will do that.”
Gilmore was the latest Patriot to test positive for the Coronavirus on Tuesday. Four days before his result, quarterback Cam Newton became the first member of the team to have contracted the virus. Later, practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray was also sent to the Reserve/Covid-19 list.
Despite this development, the hope was that a situation as the one in Tennessee could be prevented: After the Titans had their first Covid-19 case on September 24, a second popped up two days later. The team nevertheless was allowed to travel to Minnesota on September 27 to play against the Vikings. Eight more tests came back positive the following day and the club is now up to 23 confirmed positive cases after three more players caught the virus this week.
Given this exemplary case, the situation in New England therefore remains critical despite a second straight day of negative test results being an encouraging development.