NFL: Patriots-Chiefs will move to Monday or Tuesday

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The Patriots and Chiefs will not be playing at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday.

The NFL announced in a statement on Saturday that the game will be postponed to Monday or Tuesday due to “positive COVID-19 tests on both teams.” Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive and NFL Media reports that Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta’amu has as well.

“In consultation with infectious disease experts, both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NFLPA to evaluate multiple close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments. All decisions will be made with the health and safety of players, team and gameday personnel as our primary consideration,” the statement said.

As we’ve seen with the Titans this week, the incubation period for the virus means that players could test positive days after their teammates. That means further testing for the Patriots will determine when the game is played this week or, should several more positive tests pop up, if the teams will need to find another date to play the game.

Report: Patriots-Chiefs will not be played on Sunday

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With Patriots quarterback Cam Newton testing positive for COVID-19, the Patriots need to watch and wait for additional positive tests. Meanwhile, they’re due to play the Chiefs on Sunday.

According to Field Yates of ESPN.com, the current “expectation” is that the Patriots-Chiefs game won’t be played on Sunday as scheduled.

NFL Media suggests that the game could be played Monday. However, if Sunday doesn’t work, Monday likely doesn’t work either. Given the incubation period, the Patriots need enough time to see whether anyone Newton has been in contact with generates a positive test result. The outbreak donut hole emerges if a player begins shedding virus during the 24-hour window between the collection of consecutive off-site PCR samples, one day apart.

If the game can’t be played tomorrow, it likely can’t be played on Monday or Tuesday. Unlike Steelers-Titans, the schedule provides no simple shuffling of bye weeks and whatnot that would allow the game to be played between Week Five and Week 17.

Which raises the possibility — before the first NFL Sunday in October — that the playoffs are bumped back by a week or two for the playing of games in what would be a Week 18 or Week 19.

The next step becomes cancelling games altogether, setting the stage for teams making the playoffs or missing the playoffs based on the fact that they didn’t get a chance to win, or to lose, a sixteenth game.

Patriots now must watch and wait for a potential outbreak

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If the Titans hadn’t been generating a daily stream of positive COVID-19 tests, the NFL possibly would proceed with Sunday’s Patriots-Chiefs game, with quarterback Cam Newton treated no differently than any other injured player. Post-Titans, the analysis changes.

Even with daily testing or, as the Patriots have conducted, point-of-care testing for anyone who was in contact with Newton, those currently testing negative may still be within the incubation period. The positives can come tomorrow. The positives also can come Monday or Tuesday, with players potentially shedding virus during Sunday’s game — and potentially spreading it to members of the Chiefs.

The league believe the virus is difficult to transmit during a game, given the open-air setting or high-ceiling of a domed stadium. That theory was confirmed through the failure of the virus to jump from the Titans to the Vikings last Sunday. The question now becomes whether, after seeing what happened with the Titans, the league is comfortable allowing the Patriots and Chiefs to take the chance that there will be New England players shedding virus during the game while in close quarters with Chiefs players.

Patriots announce that a “player” tested positive for COVID-19

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Multiple reports indicate that Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive for COVID-19. The Patriots, without naming Newton, have confirmed that one of the team’s players has tested positive.

“Late last night, we received notice that a Patriots player tested positive for COVID-19,” the team said. “The player immediately entered self-quarantine. Several additional players, coaches and staff who have been in close contact with the player received point of care tests this morning and all were negative for COVID-19.

“We are in close consultation with the NFL, as well as our team of independent doctors and specialists, and will follow their guidance regarding our scheduled trip to Kansas City and game against the Chiefs. The health and safety of our team, as well as our opponent, are our highest priority.”

The Patriots are due to travel to Kansas City later today. Thus, a decision needs to be made fairly quickly as to whether the team will even make the trip. We’ll be following the story as it continues to unfold, and posting new items as warranted.

Cam Newton tests positive for COVID-19

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Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive for COVID-19.

Newton will not play on Sunday against the Chiefs, according to multiple reports

A former league MVP who is in his first year with the Patriots, Newton is by far the highest-profile NFL player to test positive for the coronavirus this season. Although the league was forced to postpone Sunday’s Titans-Steelers game because eight Titans players have tested positive, none of those players was nearly as well known to the general public as Newton.

It’s unclear where the Patriots go from here. Presumably Brian Hoyer would start at quarterback and Jarrett Stidham would back him up, although if they’ve both been in close contact with Newton they might both be forced to quarantine as well.

The Patriots have not issued any statements about the matter, but Newton was reportedly the only player on the team to test positive.

Bengals add Joe Mixon to injury report

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Bengals running back Joe Mixon did not appear on the Week Four injury report. He does now.

On Saturday morning, the Bengals added Mixon to the injury report with a chest injury. He’s questionable for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars.

Mixon has 164 rushing yards through three games, with another 58 receiving yards. He has yet to score a touchdown this season.

The 0-2-1 Bengals are three-point favorites against the 1-2 Jaguars. Mixon’s injury makes me feel even better about picking Jacksonville. Their passing game couldn’t get going against Miami’s pass rush; with Geno Atkins still out for Cincinnati, quarterback Gardner Minshew should have more time to operate. Having receiver D.J. Chark (chest, back) back in the fold should also help.

Vikings still have no positive COVID-19 tests

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The NFL had its first COVID-19 outbreak this week when the Tennessee Titans were hit hard by the virus, but the league appears to have dodged a bullet with no in-game transmissions.

The Vikings, who played the Titans on Sunday, have still had zero positive COVID-19 tests, according to multiple reports.

Because they’ve managed to stay healthy, the Vikings are traveling to Houston today and will play the Texans tomorrow.

Whether the NFL can play an entire season without any team-to-team transmission of the virus remains to be seen, but the indications right now are a relief to the league. With multiple players who played against the Vikings testing positive, it’s reassuring that no Vikings have tested positive.

Three more positive COVID-19 tests in Titans organization

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The positive tests keep on coming in Tennessee.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that three more members of the Titans organization have tested positive for COVID-19. One player and two other team personnel were positive in this round of testing.

That brings the number of positive tests this week to 16 people. Eight players have tested positive along with eight other team personnel.

The Titans facility has been closed since Tuesday and the team’s scheduled game against the Steelers for this Sunday has been rescheduled for Week Seven. The continued positive tests may delay the reopening of the facility as NFL chief medical officer Allen Sills said Friday, via Judy Battista of NFL Media, that the league is “going to want to see a period where we’re convinced there’s no transmission” before the Titans go back to week.

As long as players keep testing positive, that conviction will be tough to come by and the continued positives could also put the team’s Week Five game against the Bills at risk.

Panthers activating Eli Apple from IR

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Cornerback Eli Apple is set to make his 2020 debut.

Apple went on injured reserve at the start of the regular season due to multiple lower body injuries and became eligible to return to action after three weeks on the list. He practiced with the team this week and Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that he will be activated on Saturday in order to play against the Cardinals on Sunday.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports the team will waive defensive end Shareef Miller.

Apple signed with the Panthers as a free agent this offseason. He initially agreed to a deal with the Raiders, but it did not move forward to a completed deal.

Quarterbacks are staying healthy, for the most part

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The NFL continues to be a quarterback-driven league. For the most part, quarterbacks are avoiding injury in 2020.

Three of 32 starters have missed time due to injury: Drew Lock of the Broncos, Tyrod Taylor of the Chargers, and Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers. It’s possible that Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will join them, due to a shoulder injury suffered on Thursday night against Denver.

This means that nearly 90 percent of the starting quarterbacks have remained healthy. Which is good news for the league.

But it’s always subject to change, especially with quarterbacks like Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson, and Ryan Fitzpatrick not just taking hits but at times seeming to welcome them. For plenty of quarterbacks, it may just be a matter of time before something snaps or tears or strains or whatever, causing them to join the short list of starters who have missed time this season.

The better news is that the backups who have replaced Lock, Taylor, and Garoppolo have played well enough to take their teams to a cumulative record of 4-2 without the starters available.

It’s still early. And as we learned 13 days ago, a rash of injuries can happen at any time. The smartest quarterbacks find a way to avoid contact whenever and however they can, since not getting hit is the best path to not getting hurt.

To save the season, NFL, NFLPA should agree to put all teams in hotels now

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On Tuesday morning, with three weeks and 48 games of the 2020 NFL regular-season in the books, it looked like the NFL had cracked the COVID code. By Tuesday night, everything changed.

From the the outbreak of the virus in Tennessee to the images of maskless stupidity in Las Vegas, what had seemed to be a sure thing quickly became tenuous and uncertain. The constant drip of stray positives pushed the Steelers-Titans game to Week Seven, a quick fix that won’t be quite as easy once bye weeks have come and gone.

The options for making up games will become limited after teams have their byes, with the addition of an extra week or two of the regular season perhaps being the only way to salvage games that get scrapped by new outbreaks — or if the situation in Nashville ultimately postpones the Bills-Titans game that is due to start eight days from now.

Rather than planning for the next inevitable outbreak, the NFL’s best approach could be to take all steps necessary to keep an outbreak from being inevitable. The NHL and NBA pulled it off with hardened, league-wide bubbles. The ship has long since sailed on the NFL taking all teams to one location; however, there’s still time to be preemptive and proactive and to minimize the possibility of losing more games.

The fix is simple: Put all teams in hotels. Do it now. Seal off all players, coaches, and essential personnel from the outside world. Hotel, practice facility, stadium, airport. That’s the universe of movement for the next three months, up to four for the teams that make it to the Super Bowl.

The NFL can’t do it without the agreement of the NFL Players Association, and the NFLPA likely would want something more for the players in order to get them to step aside from their lives for the balance of the regular season, and (for 14 teams) beyond. Then again, maybe the concession comes from enhancing the ability to avoid losing games, and the game checks that go along with it.

The union already has agreed to a pay-for-play model. The players get paid for the games that are played. If any games are scrapped, the players don’t get paid. That alone should be enough incentive to stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and every night until the season end.

The postponement of the Steelers-Titans game shows that games can, and quite possibly will, be lost to the pandemic, unless things change. The best way to change things comes from a measure that may seem extreme on the surface but that becomes the safest bet (short of a hockey/basketball full-league bubble) to get the games played and to get the players paid.

The sooner the league and the union realize this, the sooner steps can be taken to avoid losing games for good, and the greater the likelihood that all 256 games will be played.

Danielle Hunter chimes in on report he may miss the season

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The “tweak” ended up being a lot more than that, and it could be enough to wipe out the entire season for Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter.

Throughout camp, the Vikings downplayed Hunter’s health condition before abruptly placing him on injured reserve just before the start of the regular season. With the window for his return now open, Hunter hasn’t.

On Friday, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that Hunter’s “second opinion” entailed a recommendation that he not play again this year due to a herniated disc in his neck. Last night, Hunter tweeted a one-word response: “Interesting.”

Interesting indeed. The news comes at a time when some have wondered whether Hunter has avoided playing because of dissatisfaction with his contract. While he may be unhappy with a deal that pays him $14.4 million per year given that Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa has shoved the bar to $27 million annually, the second opinion shows that Hunter isn’t holding in.

It also shows (yet again) that teams can and will disseminate information that isn’t entirely true for strategic reasons. If, for example, the Vikings had been completely candid about Hunter’s “tweak,” defensive end Yannick Ngakoue may have wanted a lot more than $12 million on the one-year deal he accepted to get out of Jacksonville. Likewise, the Jaguars may have wanted more than the second- and fifth-round picks they secured from the Vikings for Ngakoue.

Regardless, an unexpectedly bad season for the Vikings is getting worse, with trips to Houston and Seattle looming. A Week Six game against Atlanta could be Minnesota’s best chance of avoiding entering the bye at something other than 0-6.

Kyle Shanahan: Potential Dee Ford retirement is “not being discussed”

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The latest injury situation involving 49ers defensive end Dee Ford has sparked chatter and speculation that it could cause Ford to retire. On Friday, the R-word came up during coach Kyle Shanahan’s videoconference with reporters.

“It’s not being discussed,” Shanahan said, “and I don’t want to say anything strong that people blow up, but it’s similar to what I said a couple of weeks ago. When you’re dealing with the back and things like that, everything’s a concern. Also, that stuff does loosen up just randomly, too. That’s why we’re playing it slow. I just saw him here a little bit in the hallway on my way here. I think he’s doing better than he was a couple of weeks ago, that’s for sure. But, it’s something we’ve just got to be smart with and you can’t risk things when you’re dealing with that part of the body. So I wouldn’t get to saying all that stuff, but that’s why we’re being cautious with it.”

There’s another important reason for Ford to not retire: He’d owe the 49ers $4.8 million if he did. The better approach would be for him to get through the current season, wait for the 49ers to release him, and walk away with the remainder of his $8 million signing bonus on a five-year deal that was structured to pay out all guaranteed money in the first two years.

He’d exit with nearly $35 million over two years, and then Ford would be able to decide whether to continue his career or whether, due to his health situation, to call it quits.

For now, the 49ers plan to place Ford on injured reserve on Saturday. He has missed two games, and the IR placement guarantees he’ll miss at least three more.

Sean McVay: I know we didn’t punt on Sunday because when we do punt I’m pissed

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Rams coach Sean McVay didn’t need to be told that his team didn’t punt on Sunday.

Asked on Friday if he realized that his punt team never took the field in Sunday’s loss to the Bills, McVay said he was well aware because he’s always angry when his offense gets stopped on a third down.

“I was aware of that given the fact that if we have to punt usually I’m pissed,” McVay said, via the Los Angeles Times.

The Rams have punted just five times this season, tied for the fewest in the NFL. So McVay hasn’t been pissed too often.

Until Sunday against Buffalo, Rams punter Johnny Hekker had never been active for a game in which he didn’t punt. McVay referred to Hekker as “the best punter in the world,” but in McVay’s perfect world, Hekker would only take the field to hold for extra points.

Larry Fitzgerald: “Home-field advantage is definitely not the same”

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Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is in his 17th NFL season, but he has never experienced a season like this one.

This season, with stadiums either empty or at significantly reduced capacity, Fitzgerald says the lack of crowd noise makes it easy to hear quarterback Kyler Murray in the middle of the field when Fitzgerald is lined up on the sideline, something that usually isn’t the same.

“I would say the home-field advantage is definitely not the same,” Fitzgerald said, via SI.com. “We went to San Francisco. That place is usually really tough. They have a loyal fan base, they’re used to winning, they’ve had a lot of success and not having that added element makes it easy, especially as an offensive player in terms of the communication. The way we play with a lot of tempo, Kyler can look out literally and just tell you what you have. You can check something and communicate very easily to your teammates. ‘I got this guy, you got this guy,’ or you can hear the defense communicating when they’re talking, in and out or a bracket coverage. You can actually hear them talking to each other. OK, they’re playing zone or playing man. You have a better understanding of what’s going on just because you can hear everything and not hear the crowd distracting you. So it’s a lot easier to play on the road thus far. We’ve only had one road game, but it definitely wasn’t nearly as challenging as it has been the last 16 years.”

Home teams are barely above .500 so far this season, with a cumulative record of just 25-23-1. Home-field advantage is not what it used to be.