Get used to this feeling of insecurity, football fans. The Patriots-Broncos game is still scheduled for 1pm on Sunday in an empty Gillette Stadium, but there are no guarantees until a foot actually meets leather.
Playing through the COVID pandemic gets messier by the week, with more cases popping up and a full-out outbreak affecting the Titans. The NFL had 42 positive cases in 46 days (August 12 to September 26), and 41 more cases in the following 14 (September 27 to October 10). About a third of the competition, including the Patriots, has recently participated in the intensive protocols, which include stricter mask wearing and fewer people in the facility.
The NFL schedule is written in pencil this year. This Patriots-Broncos game has already been postponed three times last Sunday, first from 1 to 4:25, then from Sunday to Monday, and then from week 5 to week 6. Broncos coach Vic Fangio said his team is getting used to it to plan in an instant.
Every time you get a rep for something, you get better, he said.
The NFL really wants to play this game at 1 p.m. on Sunday and is just talking about it, especially as the farewells of both teams have been moved to last week, and the only other way to reschedule would be to create an extra week at the end of the match. season. The Broncos are eager to get back on the field after the unexpected break.
But the NFL also knows that it doesn’t control the situation. It all depends on the Patriots’ test results over the next two days. There isn’t much to do except cross fingers and hope for the best.
We would assume and continue as if they were playing on Sundays until officially told otherwise, Fangio said. Our boys were good at that.
If Ferentz is an isolated case, or even if one or two other Patriots turn out to be positive, then the game should probably go ahead as planned. The whole point of developing the NFL’s facility protocols, a multi-million dollar testing and tracking system and greater roster flexibility, was that the league shouldn’t be shut down every time a positive case appeared. And the players all chose the season knowing they could get infected.
But contact tracking and test results, not hopes and wishes, will guide the NFL’s decisions. If multiple Patriots turn positive on Saturday and Sunday, the NFL may have no choice but to postpone the game again. Given how unhappy the Patriots were with the decision to fly to Kansas City and play two weeks ago, and how the NFL has since changed its rules in response to that situation, there’s no way the NFL would force the Patriots to retire this Sunday. to play if it had one more possible mini-outbreak.
The patriots wouldn’t stand for it either.
The NFL’s direct job is to determine whether Ferentz is part of last week’s cluster of positives, or an isolated case. The league must also determine whether Ferentz, who would likely start in the center with David Andrews injured, came into close contact with many of his teammates and coaches. The NFL’s new protocols state that anyone considered high-risk close contact must sit for five days to account for an incubation period.
Fortunately, chances are Ferentz didn’t have much close contact with teammates. Since the game in Kansas City on Oct. 5, the Patriots have only practiced twice (Oct. 10 and Oct. 15) and met one more time at the facility. They staggered players in and out of Gillette Stadium and limited the number of players in the weight room. They wore masks during training and during workouts.
And luckily, the NFL has not seen any evidence that football activities on the field have promoted the spread of the virus. The Vikings did not get sick despite playing the Titans during the start of their outbreak. If the Patriots don’t have a mini-burst, the NFL should feel quite comfortable about them playing on Sunday.
But the test results of the next two days will determine the fate of the game. Anything can happen until 12:59 PM on Sunday.
Get used to the uncertainty.
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