Despite the possibility that positive tests will continue for the Patriots — and that one or more players could be shedding virus on Monday — the NFL currently plans to proceed with the Monday night game between Denver and New England.
For now the game is still on, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Further testing of players will happen today, and more undoubtedly will happen on Monday. If there are no further positives (or maybe even if there are), the game could move forward.
With the Patriots having a Week Six bye, the Broncos having a Week Eight bye, and no simple way to reshuffle schedules to allow the game to be made up, this could end up being the first “Week 18” game, if it’s not played.
This situation presents the rubber-meets-the-road moment for the NFL’s “next man up” approach to the virus and the reality that, with each new positive result, there can eventually be a next man down. The incubation period creates a lag between exposure and positive, and it’s entirely possible that the latest positive resulted from exposure to cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Monday (he tested positive Tuesday), given that Gilmore was exposed to Newton the prior Friday, not long before Newton learned that his PCR sample for that day tested positive.
Gilmore tested negative last Monday. At some point between Monday and Tuesday, he became positive — and began shedding virus. The positive result collected on Saturday for a new player quite possibly came from exposure to Gilmore, either on the plane to Kansas City (if the player was on the plane with those who had been exposed to Cam Newton) or in the cramped visiting locker room in Kansas City, or on the field or sideline on Monday night, or on the plane back.
Whoever tested positive on Saturday may have exposed someone else. In four or five days, that person may test positive.
That’s the heart of the problem with pro football in a pandemic. The incubation period coupled with the testing technology creates a significant donut hole that allows a chain of positives to snake through the process undetected. Or, more accurately, detected too late.
And that’s why only a home-market bubble has a chance to end this, because it seals off the primary avenue for players, coaches, and other personnel to catch the virus away from the facility, which then lights the fuse for others catching it.