4 takeaways from Cam Newton testing positive for COVID-19

It could possibly lead to a prolonged absence.

Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19.
Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19. –John Froschauer/AP Photo

Patriots starting quarterback Cam Newton has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss New England’s Week 4 showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs if the game happens.

The news came just hours before the team was set to depart for Kansas City. Now, the game between New England and Kansas City has been postponed, with the Chiefs also having a player on their practice squad test positive, quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.

The Patriots released the following statement, in response to reports about Newton’s positive test.

Newton’s positive test came on the heels of news that three more Tennessee Titans personnel tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday morning, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. With Newton out this week now, the move figures to have an impact on the Patriots, and the NFL, in more ways than one. 

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Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback if the game happens.

News came quickly after the reports of Newton’s positive that Brian Hoyer, the team’s backup this season, would start in place of Newton against the Chiefs. While not surprising, as Hoyer has been the team’s No. 2 quarterback since the team came out of training camp, the news does bring the status of Jarrett Stidham, last year’s backup to Tom Brady, into question. 

Stidham, of course, saw his bid to be the next Patriots’ starting quarterback quickly derailed due to a hip injury suffered at the beginning of training camp. With Hoyer now the team’s starter until Newton returns, Stidham is, presumably, currently the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

While the veteran Hoyer may be the preferred option to keep the train on the tracks for a couple weeks if Newton’s absence is brief, an extended absence for Newton could present New England with a bit of dilemma, choosing between competing with Hoyer under center, or seeing what they have in Stidham to evaluate his starting potential in 2021 and beyond. 

It could possibly lead to a prolonged absence for Newton.

The only thing that is certain about coronavirus is that the information that we have on it is incomplete, and its impact varies from person to person. While the hope is that Newton recovers quickly from this virus, it’s no guarantee that he will be fully recovered in two weeks’ time. 

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The case of Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, who contracted COVID-19 and subsequently developed myocarditis – a heart condition – as a result of coronavirus, serves as a cautionary tale to Patriots fans when projecting the return of Newton.

The absence of Newton comes at a difficult time in the schedule for New England, who tentatively faces Kansas City and Denver before getting a bye in Week 6 and then faces the 49ers and Bills after that. 

Because Newton is now required to self-isolate for at least 14 days, and potentially more depending on the extent of his symptoms, he is certain to miss Weeks 4 and 5. The Week 6 bye gives Newton and the Patriots a bit of a buffer, but any more games missed after that would be certain to impact New England’s postseason chances.

In the meantime, it will be up to Hoyer and Stidham to keep things going in Newton’s stead. While Hoyer will get first crack at starting in place of Newton, it’s no guarantee that the player who has a career record of 16-22 as a starting quarterback in the NFL will be the starter from start to finish. 

Stidham, in his second year, will need to be ready in case Hoyer struggles. With Newton not signed beyond this season, Stidham could have an opportunity to showcase his talent on the field at some point in the regular season while Newton is out, something that he couldn’t do this summer due to injury. 

The Patriots’ offensive playbook will likely change.

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With Newton out, the team is likely to rely even more on their ground game to get its offense going. However, while the emphasis on running the ball should remain, how the team runs the ball will almost certainly change with Newton out. 

Without the threat of Newton running the ball for defenses to account for now, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will need to toss out several pages from his playbook while he has Hoyer or Stidham in at quarterback. New England won’t be able to run QB draws, power reads, or several other plays as effectively, if at all, with Newton out. 

Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels’ greatest strengths as coaches are playing to the strengths of the players they have on their roster. With Hoyer as the starting QB, they will likely emphasize the running game, and have Hoyer play it safe, by giving him defined reads and easy throws to the short and intermediate parts of the field. New England will rely on its running game to win while Newton is out, and will hope that Hoyer can simply help guide the ship in the right direction.

Their Week 4 matchup is in question. 

As this week has shown us, between the sustained coronavirus outbreak with the Tennessee Titans and the President of the United States testing positive for the virus as well, this is a fickle virus, and a negative COVID-19 test does not necessarily mean that the subject, in this case NFL players, do not have the virus at the time of the test or could not contract it after the test is performed.

In the case of the Titans, it was first announced that the team had its first positive COVID-19 test on Sept. 24. Since then, the team has had positive tests on Sept. 26, Sept. 29, Sept. 30, Oct. 1, and Oct. 2. 

Even though the Patriots had no other positive tests come back Saturday morning, there is still a window of 7-10 days where further tests could come back positive.

Aside from the obvious health and safety concerns of the NFL only pushing Patriots-Chiefs back to Monday or Tuesday, there are logistical concerns that could derail this game being played at all in Week 4.

The Chiefs, if this game is played on Tuesday, would be playing three games in only nine days, as they play the Bills in Week 6 on Thursday night. Not only does playing this game on Tuesday risk more players contracting the virus, it also puts the Chiefs in a tough spot, needing to gut out three games in nine days, something that can also be framed as a health and safety concern.

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