The New England Patriots felt the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday when it was reported that starting quarterback Cam Newton had been infected with the virus. Newton was placed on the reserve/COVID list and will now not suit up for the Patriots' Week 4 contest with the Kansas City Chiefs (more on that game in a moment). Naturally, this sent shockwaves throughout the NFL as this was the first starting quarterback to come down with the coronavirus midseason.
Given all the news that has flooded in as it relates to Newton's positive test and the questions it brings to the Patriots-Chiefs Week 4 matchup, here's an easily digestible rundown of what we know:
- Cam Newton lands on reserve/COVID list (per CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora)
- Patriots released a statement revealing an unnamed player (reported to be Cam Newton) tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. The player immediately self-quarantined and several players, coaches, and staff that were in close proximity to the player received point-of-care tests on Saturday morning and were negative for COVID-19.
- NFL announces postponement of Patriots-Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (originally planned for Sunday, Oct. 4).
- Reschedule date tentatively for Monday or Tuesday, per the NFL's statement.
- Both Patriots and Chiefs (also dealing with a positive COVID test) have closed their facilities for Saturday and Sunday. If tests come back negative and Week 4 is greenlit, the Patriots possibly could fly to Kansas City on Monday, but they would need special approval from the NFL and NFLPA for gameday travel (via MMQB).
- In a virtual team meeting on Saturday night, Patriots players were told pending negative tests, the current plan is to play on Monday night (via Dianna Russini of ESPN).
How long will Cam Newton be out for the Patriots? Here's what the league has blueprinted:
- If the player has tested positive and is showing no symptoms, he cannot return until 10 days have passed since the initial positive test or five days have passed since the initial positive test coupled with two consecutive negative PCR virus tests separated by 24 hours. The return must also be approved by the team physician, after consultation with ICS and the NFL's chief medical officer.
- If the player has tested positive and is symptomatic, he cannot return until 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared. The player must also have at least 72 hours pass since symptoms last occurred and his return must be approved by the club physician after consultation with ICS and the NFL's chief medical officer.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Brian Hoyer is expected to start for the Patriots in Newton's absence. This doesn't come as too much of a surprise as Hoyer, who is in the midst of his third stint with the organization, has been the only other quarterback who has dressed for New England this year. Second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham has been a healthy scratch for the first three weeks.
Here are some other news and noted revolving the Patriots from the past week:
Chiefs also dealing with positive COVID-19 test
It's not just the Patriots dealing with the rigors of the coronavirus as the Chiefs -- New England Week 4 opponent -- saw practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu test positive for COVID-19. The former XFL quarterback has since been added to the reserve list. According to Dianna Russini of ESPN, Ta'amu was running the scout team for the Chiefs this week and was mimicking "Cam Newton" for the starting defense. Given Ta'amu's heavy involvement in the game prep, it's certainly just at much of a concern for Kansas City going forward over the next few days.
What Pats said about Titans situation
In the wake of Cam Newton testing positive for COVID-19, Devin McCourty's earlier comments on the outbreak that the Tennessee Titans faced this week takes on a bit more weight.
"I just think across the whole league, we talked about this when training camp started," McCourty said on Wednesday. "It's up to us. It's up to all the players. It's up to all the coaching staff, the staff members and around the organization that, if we want to keep football alive, we're all responsible and try to do the right things. But at the end of the day, we are in a pandemic. So what happened in Tennessee, although it kind of shocks us, it's not really surprising. I think we all knew at some point we might get some positive tests.
"But, you know, it's hard once you get a rolling and no positive tests Week 1. No positive tests Week 2. So it's like, we got this. I think this is just a little shocker, but it's also a wakeup call, like hey, the virus is still here and it will affect any and everybody. It doesn't care that we're trying to play football."
Offense gets boost with White, Harris, and Olszewski
The Patriots saw the return of James White, Damien Harris, and Gunner Olszewski in practice this week. White has missed the previous two games after losing his father in a car crash while Harris and Olszewski began the season on injured reserve.
Both Harris and Olszewski can now be activated to the 53-man roster at any point in the next 21 days and could very well play as soon as New England's Week 4 matchup with Kansas City. That said, this latest COVID-19 dilemma does throw a bit of a wrench into things. If the Patriots play on Monday, the team will have to activate them by 4 p.m. on Monday. If the game is played on Tuesday, they'll have to make that decision by 4 p.m. that day. Again, it's essentially flicking a switch, but the timing is a bit changed for the club in this roster maneuvering.
Once activated, Harris could battle for the starting role in New England's backfield, which is currently held by Sony Michel. Harris was far-and-away the best back the Patriots had in camp and if he picks up that strong play, he could be looking at a sizable role as he enters Year 2. Of course, James White's role as the lead pass-catching back will also be a key piece that'll be returning to the Patriots offense. With Harris, White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, and J.J. Taylor in the fold, the Patriots are looking at a pretty dynamic rushing attack that should stay fresh from wire-to-wire.
As it relates to Olszewski, the second-year receiver was turning heads in training camp and should further deepen the position behind Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd. He also should factor into the punt return unit after fielding 20 punts in eight games played last year.
Bill Belichick in an unfamiliar spot in Week 4
This matchup has evolved into something that Bill Belichick has never faced in his entire NFL career, but the head coach was already looking at a rarity as he faces the Chiefs. This is just the third time since 2001 (Tom Brady's ascension) that Belichick has been a touchdown underdog. That speaks to the dominance the Patriots head coach has enjoyed over his tenure with the Patriots and their overall success over the last two decades. That said, Belichick has been a touchdown underdog at points throughout his long NFL career. In New England, he is 9-2 ATS in that setting and 6-5 SU.
Chase Winovich at tight end?
If there's one thing Bill Belichick likes, it's players who are versatile and can play multiple positions in a pinch. With that in mind, could we see defensive end Chase Winovich line up at tight end at some point? He does have a history of making that switch as he told reporters on Friday that he played a little tight end during his days at Michigan. In fact, current Patriots quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch was on Jim Harbaugh's coaching staff at the time.
"To be honest, that would be awesome," Winovich said of potentially subbing in at some point, via NBC Sports Boston. "Yeah, and I always mess with [Fisch] about it, particularly even running back or any position I'm always messing with him. Really, I'm more focused on just making sure I'm assignment sound. Until I can be absolutely perfect and in everything I do, there's more work to be done and more focus there to be had than trying to branch out.
"But you know, I've got my fingers crossed, just working on catching and stuff. I maybe you have some free time. But you never know. But I don't see that happening right now."
So far, Winovich is playing his natural position extremely well, totaling 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits through the first three weeks. He also forced Derek Carr to fumble just last week.