COVID issues cast doubt on Broncos’ trip to New England
The coronavirus pandemic is threatening to punt the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos into an unscheduled bye week.
Following the win over the New York Jets last week, the Denver Broncos thought their biggest worry about going to New England to face the Patriots in Week 5 was stopping quarterback Cam Newton.
But Newton, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and practice squad defensive lineman Bill Murray are all positive for COVID-19 and on the reserve/COVID list in a plot twist that could unravel further in the coming days. The Patriots called off Wednesday and Thursday practice and the earliest possible get-together for the team is Saturday.
The Patriots (2-2) closed their facility Wednesday on the day Gilmore released a statement acknowledging his positive test but saying he was asymptomatic.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio said no players have told him they’re not comfortable playing this week despite the COVID cases in New England.
“I feel fine. I go to the grocery store too. I just have a lot of confidence in the NFL and the players union, they’re doing a good job working together on all of these issues,” Fangio said. “I’m sure everything will be safe for all involved and I’m totally confident in it.”
Kicker Brandon McManus, the team’s union player rep, said it wouldn’t be up to players because of the power they handed over in negotiations with the NFL to make decisions on whether to play each week.
“I just asked the question today if as a team we decided it wasn’t safe and we didn’t want to go because it wasn’t safe. We wouldn’t be able to do that,” McManus said. “It’s not legal in our contract to do that. There’s kind of a way you can get away with it. Not get away with it, but go about it. You’d have to show, and you’d have to prove legally in the court that there was negligence on the Patriots or negligence on the Broncos with the way we travel to put people at risk.”
There’s still some proving to do for Newton and Gilmore to be cleared for this game.
Newton, who sat out Monday night’s loss at Kansas City, might be cleared in time to play against Denver. According to NBC.com Boston, Newton – and Gilmore – could play if they have two negative tests in a 24-hour period because they are both asymptomatic.
If Newton remains sidelined, coach Bill Belichick must decide whether Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham is the team’s best option. Hoyer never appeared comfortable and was turnover happy at Kansas City. Stidham also threw an interception in the end zone.
New England hopes Newton can pass the protocols and play.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Belichick said during his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI on Tuesday. “I’m not going to try to make any predictions or read into a crystal ball on where things are going to be Friday, Saturday, or some other day in the week. There are so many unpredictable factors here. You just can’t nail them down. So we’ll work with what we can work with.”
The Broncos could have a different look than they did in beating the Jets on Oct. 1.
Quarterback Brett Rypien made his first NFL start and did enough to get Denver past the lowly Jets. He will start Sunday but there is hope Drew Lock, limited in Wednesday’s practice, can return earlier than expected from a right shoulder injury suffered at Pittsburgh on Sept. 20.
Lock was throwing with the quarterbacks at the start of Wednesday’s practice. Rypien was taking snaps with the first-team offense.
The Broncos are also expected to have running back Phillip Lindsay back from a turf toe injury that kept him out of the last three games.
Denver is still preparing for New England despite the possibility of the game being postponed.
–Field Level Media