The Patriots are counting down to kickoff Sunday even after three more players have been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
No new positive cases have been reported among players across the NFL as of Sunday, according to ESPN. The Patriots and the Denver Broncos have been cleared to play 1p.m. Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Running back Sony Michel, guard Shaq Mason and defensive end Derek Rivers were placed on the COVID list on Saturday. That does not necessarily mean that they have tested positive for the coronavirus; they could have just been exposed to someone who has.
Still, some fans are becoming increasingly concerned as more players continue to be added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list.
"They're contact sports, so it's going to be spread around most likely unless they can contain themselves to a bubble, which is very difficult," one fan said.
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Another added, "You know, if things get dangerous and there's too many positive tests, they should shut it down. But I hope that they'll keep it safe."
Keeping it safe has been a tall task, as has been maintaining the league's schedule.
"Games are getting rescheduled every week. Games are getting pushed back. Teams have already had their bye weeks when they're not supposed to so if they keep extending it, they might have to put in additional weeks for a season to happen," a third fan shared.
The Patriots' practice facility reopened Saturday and the team was reportedly still preparing to play its game against the Broncos.
The team had canceled practice Friday and later placed center James Ferentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He became the fifth player on the team to test positive for the virus.
New England (2-2) already twice had their original Week 5 matchup against Denver postponed following four earlier positive coronavirus tests by players, including quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
“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 virus. Newton missed New England’s loss at Kansas City on Oct. 5 after his Oct. 2 positive test. He was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday. Gilmore, who tested positive on Oct. 7, was activated from the list Thursday. Practice squad player Bill Murray also returned from the COVID-19 list Thursday.
Defensive tackle Byron Cowart, who tested positive on Oct. 11, was joined on the list by Ferentz, Michel, Mason and Rivers.
The Broncos also announced on Saturday that running backs coach Curtis Modkins has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The Broncos (1-3) haven’t played since Oct. 1. 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.
Denver’s layoff is the longest in the league since 2001, when the NFL postponed all games on the weekend following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three teams — the Saints, Steelers and Buccaneers — had byes when play resumed a week later, so they all had 20 days between games that year. Of those three, only the Steelers won in their return to action.