New England Patriots QB Cam Newton
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots star quarterback Cam Newton reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, forcing the NFL to postpone its Week 4 “Game of the Week” between the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

It’s been a rough week for the NFL and its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. One week ago, Atlanta Falcons rookie A.J. Terrell landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list, becoming the first NFL player to miss a game with the coronavirus. While Week 3 went off without any issues, things took a turn on Tuesday.

The Tennessee Titans announced three of their players tested positive for COVID-19. Tennessee and the Minnesota Vikings, who faced the Titans two days prior, took immediate action by suspending practices. When more Titans’ players and team personnel tested posted, the NFL postponed the Week 4 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Just when the rest of the NFL’s Week 4 schedule seemed to be in the clear, the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.

Latest news on Cam Newton’s positive COVID-19 test

On Saturday morning, the Patriots announced that a player tested positive for COVID-19 the night before and put himself in quarantine. ESPN’s Field Yates and Adam Schefter disclosed that Newton contracted the coronavirus and was immediately placed on New England’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

It’s a crushing blow for the Patriots, who lose the former NFL MVP amid a phenomenal season. Signed to a bargain contract this offseason, Newton immediately won the starting job and thrived in Josh McDaniels’ system. This season, he recorded 714 passing yards through three games, completed 68.1% of his pass attempts, and scored six total touchdowns.

At the very least, Newton is looking at a two-week absence at a minimum. He will be kept in isolation for at least 10 days, but an exact return won’t be known until he tests negative for multiple times. As of Saturday afternoon, no information has been disclosed on whether or not Newton had symptoms or was asymptomatic.

With their star quarterback sidelined, the Patriots will start Brian Hoyer for the foreseeable future. Signed as insurance this offseason, Hoyer completed 53.8% of his attempts with a 4/4 TD/INT ratio in four games with the Colts last season. Across 69 career games, he holds an 82.5 quarterback rating with 10,274 passing yards, a 52/35 TD/INT ratio and a 59.1% completion rate.

When will the New England Patriots @ Kansas City Chiefs game be played?

Similar to the Titans’ situation, the NFL suspended the Patriots-Chiefs game immediately upon learning of the COVID-19 case. While Newton’s positive test drew headlines, Kansas City’s practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu also tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

In a statement, the league announced it would reschedule the marquee matchup for later in the week after players from both teams tested positive for COVID-19.

“​​The New England-Kansas City game scheduled for 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday will be rescheduled to Monday or Tuesday after positive COVID-19 tests on both teams,” the NFL said, via statement. 

We saw the same approach taken earlier this week with the Titans-Steelers game. The NFL hoped to play it on Monday or Tuesday night, but additional cases forced the league’s hand. Fortunately, the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens shared a bye week, allowing the NFL to make an easy adjustment to the 2020 schedule.

The incubation period of the coronavirus will be the deciding factor here. If no Chiefs or Patriots’ players test positive in the next 48 hours, the NFL will likely have the game played on Tuesday. Scheduled to be broadcasted on CBS, the move would create a unique primetime game.

As we’ve seen with the Titans, the coronavirus can spread quickly. If multiple Patriots’ players or coaches contracted the coronavirus, which would appear in test results in the next two days, the NFL will need to make an even bigger change to its schedule. If the Chiefs play on Tuesday, it means they will compete in three games (Oct. 6 vs. NE, Oct. 11 vs. LV, Oct. 15 at BUF) in nine days.

What happens when an NFL player gets COVID-19?

Before training camp began, the NFL created strict safety protocols to decrease the chance of close contact and exposure. It also agreed on daily COVID-19 testing this summer, which was later extended through training camp and has continued into the regular season. The NFL is estimated to use 40,000-plus COVID-19 tests per week and at a staggering cost, a figure that is even higher with daily testing stretching into October.

Despite the safety measures, the NFL knew players would contract COVID-19 during the season. It anticipated players missing multiple weeks, leading to the expansion of practice squads to 16-man rosters. With the coronavirus now popping up across the league, additional protocols come into play.

As outlined by the NFL Players Association, the length of a player or employee’s absence depends on several factors. In addition to whether or not the person shows symptoms, anyone who comes in contact with a person who tests positive lands on the reserve list.

From that point, the player or employee isn’t allowed to return to the team’s facility until they meet all of the following thresholds.

  • At least 10 days have passed since first COVID symptoms appeared; and
  • At least 24 hours passed since last fever without the use of fever-reducing medications;
  • Other symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, etc.) have improved;
  • Return approved by the team’s physician, following consultation with the Incident Command System and the NFL’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills
  • Local regulations and requirements are met.

If a player is dealing with a mild symptomatic infection, they are required to complete a three-day progressive exercise protocol before returning to training and game availability. The three-day exercise is a minimum requirement, helping determine whether the player suffered any heart issues from the virus.

Any player who experiences moderate or severe symptoms is recommended to undergo a seven-day progressive exercise before receiving clearance to return.

For the likes of Newton and every other NFL player who tests positive for COVID-19, there will be hurdles to overcome. A confirmed case likely means a multi-week absence, but it’s worth it in the interest of safety and health.

Matt Johnson
Writer at Sportsnaut. Journalism student at San Diego State University. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection