Update: On Sunday morning, after this article’s publication, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chiefs-Patriots game will be rescheduled for Monday, 7:05 p.m ET, pending negative tests from both teams on Monday.
A second NFL game—this one between the Patriots and Chiefs and originally scheduled for Sunday—has been postponed after players on both teams tested positive for the coronavirus. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots player who tested positive is quarterback Cam Newton.
The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday, the NFL said in a statement, though the league had hoped to make a similar adjustment to the Titans-Steelers game that was originally scheduled for this Sunday and wound up having to move it to Week 7 due to ongoing positive test results in Tennessee. Whether or not the Patriots-Chiefs game can take place in just a few days will depend on whether more cases arise and a risk assessment made based on the exposure timeline and incubation period of the virus.
Newton received his positive result late Friday night and was immediately quarantined. He had been in close contact with several teammates, coaches and staff, all of whom received point of care tests Saturday morning and tested negative. Still, given that the typical incubation period of the virus is about five days, there’s no guarantee those test results mean no one who came into contact with Newton was infected.
The Patriots had been scheduled to leave for Kansas City at 1 p.m. ET Saturday, but instead of getting on the plane, players were sent home to isolate and wait for further instructions. Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu was the player who tested positive in Kansas City, according to the NFL Network, and is also in quarantine. The NFL said in a statement that the Chiefs are performing additional tests on Ta’amu’s close contacts.
Up until now, both the Chiefs and the Patriots had avoided having any player test positive. Other teams, like the Falcons, have had individual cases pop up without the virus spreading. These positive tests, however, come after 16 Titans players and personnel have tested positive in the last week which forced the postponement of their Week 4 game.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said earlier this week that he was comfortable with the protocols and how those in New England had been following them.
”We monitor everything every day. We don’t just do it when there’s a problem or something comes up somewhere else,” Belichick said. “We do it on a daily basis and make everyone aware—because this is everybody. It’s not just players; it’s players and coaches and staff and everybody else. If we can do something better, then we talk to them about how we can do it better. So we try to monitor it the best we can, and we, I think, are pretty vigilant with all of us.”
If the game takes place this week, backup Brian Hoyer would be the likely starter for New England. Hoyer has been the backup quarterback to Newton in the Patriots’ three games so far, with third-string quarterback Jared Stidham inactive. The NFL would prefer to play the game this week and avoid more substantial changes to the schedule. The biggest issue is travel; so far, none of the players on the Vikings, who played the Titans last Sunday, have tested positive, indicating that the spread more likely took place in shared indoor spaces like airplanes, buses or the locker room where Titans players and staff were together than on the game field.