The New England Patriots canceled practice Friday after a member of the organization tested positive for COVID-19, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.
The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team and the NFL did not announce the positive test, did not reveal if it involved a player or a coach.
New England (2-2) already twice had the original Week 5 matchup against Denver postponed following four positive coronavirus tests by players, including quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The game is scheduled for Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., but now could be in jeopardy.
“I don’t really know the answer to that,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said when asked about finally playing the Patriots. “We’re under the assumption and understanding that this game’s going to go off on time. And anything that happens otherwise will happen when it happens.”
Newton and Gilmore, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, returned to practice this week for the first time since testing positive for the coronavirus. Newton missed New England’s loss at Kansas City after his Oct. 2 positive test. He was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Gilmore was activated from the list Thursday, following his Oct. 7 positive test. Practice squad player Bill Murray also returned from the COVID list Thursday.
Defensive tackle Byron Cowart was the only Patriots player currently still on the list after testing positive on Oct. 11.
Newton and Gilmore participated in Thursday’s practice and appeared to be on track to play against the Broncos on Sunday. Asked on Friday how Newton looked in his first practice back, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said the 2015 NFL MVP looked “normal, normal.”
“It’s good to have him back,” McDaniels said.
The Broncos (1-3) haven’t played since Oct. 1. So if they play Sunday, they’ll have had 16 days between games, one day longer than Tennessee’s layoff before the Titans beat Buffalo on Tuesday night following the NFL’s first COVID-19 outbreak, which affected two dozen members of the organization.
The Patriots haven’t played since Oct. 5, when they lost at Kansas City, so their layoff is a dozen days if the game is played Sunday.
The Broncos’ layoff is the longest in the league since 2001, when the NFL postponed all games the weekend following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three teams — Saints, Steelers, Buccaneers — had byes when play resumed a week later, so they all had 20 days between games that year.
Of those three teams, only the Steelers won in their return to action.
Earlier Friday, the Indianapolis Colts closed their practice facility after “several individuals” tested positive for COVID-19, then the retests came back negative and the building reopened.
“Earlier this morning, we were informed that four individuals within the organization tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said in a late-morning statement. “The four positive samples were retested and have been confirmed negative.
“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.”
Coach Frank Reich did not identify who had the false positives but acknowledged if it wasn’t a player, it was someone who worked closely with the players. He did say the four were kept out of the facility.
Reich actually had started making contingency plans to play Monday or Tuesday, and also rearranged Friday’s schedule. The install meetings were conducted virtually and after the second set of results came back, the Colts went through a lighter-than-normal practice at team headquarters wearing masks.
“It just made sense that we could jog through, get all the looks we needed to get, get our bodies going a little bit, get the heart rate going a little bit but not going full speed,” Reich said. “It would have had to been masks under the helmet, so I just felt like it was the right thing to do — not go full speed with the mask under the helmet.”
In other NFL coronavirus developments:
— The Cleveland Browns, who played the Colts on Sunday, had zero positive tests Friday morning and their building is open. The negatives included one for star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was ill and sent home Thursday and not allowed to practice Friday.
— The Atlanta Falcons on Friday resumed in-person work at their facility under more stringent safety measures. The team had closed the building Thursday following a second positive test for COVID-19.
“Just with the intensive regulations, the mask protocol is in high effect,” interim head coach Raheem Morris said. “We have to do some of those different type of deals. Masks on the field, player separation on the field. The in-person meetings only in two areas: The team meeting room and the indoor facility. All of those things we had to implement.
“Coaches meetings all virtual or in one of those two facilities as well. Just taking ultimate precaution in these times of uncertainty, especially when you’re talking about the COVID. Everything dealing with the disease and the COVID and what we’ve got to deal with I will follow to the highest and protect the team at all costs, even if it means shutting down a practice like yesterday.”
The Falcons are under the NFL’s supplemental intensive protocols as they regroup for Sunday’s game at Minnesota.
Rookie defensive tackle Marlon Davidson was placed on the COVID-19/reserve list Tuesday and the second person, who is not a player, subsequently tested positive.
The additional protocols the Falcons must follow include daily testing and masks worn at all times. Meetings must be held virtually or outdoors or in a large indoor room with 6-foot social distancing.
—The Panthers have guard/center Tyler Larsen on the reserve/COVID-19 list, five days after he played against Atlanta. Larsen did not start for the Panthers in that game, but did see action as a reserve.
— The Tennessee Titans played Tuesday following a 16-day layoff because of an outbreak.