The New England Patriots closed their facility and canceled practice Friday after at least one new positive test for the novel coronavirus.
The renewed issues for the Patriots came as the games this weekend involving the Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons remained on course Friday to be played as scheduled after each of those franchises dealt with issues related to the NFL’s daily coronavirus testing of players, coaches and certain team staff members.
The Patriots were working remotely Friday after a new positive test was returned, a person familiar with the situation confirmed. There were multiple reports that another positive test for a member of the organization from Friday morning’s results was being retested to determine it is a confirmed positive.
The Patriots are to play the Denver Broncos in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday in a rescheduled game. There was no immediate change to the status of that game. It was pushed back from last Sunday because of multiple positive tests on the Patriots.
Quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore participated in the Patriots’ practice Thursday after being activated from the team’s COVID-19 reserve list. Newton missed a game after a positive test, confirmed by a person familiar with the result. Gilmore confirmed via social media his positive coronavirus test result two days after that Oct. 5 game at Kansas City.
The NFL postponed a number of games over the last two weekends because of an outbreak on the Tennessee Titans and positive test results for other teams, including the Patriots.
League officials have mulled adding an 18th week to the 17-week regular season to accommodate further rescheduled games, if needed. They said this week they would do that only if games cannot be rescheduled within the current 17-week framework of the regular season. That could apply to the already rescheduled Patriots-Broncos game if it cannot be played by early next week.
The Colts announced that four initially positive test results from Friday morning came back confirmed as negative after retesting. The team said it would reopen its training facility Friday afternoon after closing it in the morning. The Colts are scheduled to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Indianapolis.
The Falcons reopened their facility after having no new positive tests in results returned Friday, according to a person familiar with the results. That keeps the Falcons on track to play their scheduled game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis, barring further positive tests. They had closed their facility Thursday after a single positive test result.
The Colts and Falcons became the latest NFL teams to deal with facility shutdowns related to coronavirus testing results.
The status of the Colts-Bengals game was unclear for several hours Friday morning while the four positive tests for members of the Colts organization were being retested, leading to the conclusion that the initial results were false positives.
“All is well,” Colts owner Jim Irsay wrote on Twitter late Friday morning.
The Colts said in a written statement: “After consultation with the NFL and Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Allen Sills, the team will open the practice facility this afternoon under the league’s intensive protocol and will continue preparation for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.”
The Falcons said in a written statement Friday that they had “resumed in-person work” at their facility “under the NFL’s supplemental intensive protocols.” The Falcons worked remotely Thursday after a member of their coaching staff tested positive, according to a person familiar with the result. The NFL gave the team the option to reopen its facility Thursday afternoon but the Falcons decided to work remotely all day, a person close to the situation said.
“Not all cases are the same when we do have a single positive. . . . Every one of these cases is different,” Sills said in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon. “We have to judge the merits of what’s going on based on the totality of the information we have. ... What we’re really trying to determine is: What do we think is the risk of ongoing transmission?”
The Falcons placed rookie defensive tackle Marlon Davidson on their -19 reserve list Tuesday after he reportedly tested positive. The team practiced Wednesday.
The Carolina Panthers, who played the Falcons last Sunday, announced Wednesday they were operating under enhanced coronavirus protocols. The NFL developed those protocols for those teams with positive cases and those exposed to the virus. Sills said Thursday that about 10 teams had been subjected to the enhanced protocols to that point. He also said the league has seen no evidence thus far of on-field transmission of the virus.
The Cleveland Browns, who faced the Colts last Sunday, had their facility open Friday after receiving no positive test results. Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had been sent home Thursday with an illness but he reportedly tested negative in Friday’s results.
Sills said Thursday that, with cold and flu season at hand, he expects more players and coaches leaguewide to be withheld from practices and games for displaying symptoms even if they test negative for the coronavirus. The league and teams will proceed cautiously in such instances, Sills said, to make certain through further testing and evaluation that it’s not a coronavirus case. For that reason, Beckham was to remain out of the Browns’ facility Friday.
The Titans beat the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday night in a rescheduled game, their first game since Sept. 27 and the NFL’s first Tuesday game in 10 years. The Titans have had 24 members of the organization, including 13 players, test positive for the coronavirus since Sept. 24. Their facility was closed for 11 days.