Just hours before the team was set to travel to Kansas City to play the Chiefs on Sunday, it was reported Saturday morning that Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 a night prior.
The news reportedly had players concerned for their health and the health of their families. The NFL also made the decision to temporarily postpone Sunday’s game and the Patriots’ travel plans.
“I think a lot of us just wanted to make sure we were healthy and we didn’t pass anything along to our families,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater told reporters following Monday’s game. “That was the primary concern for a lot of guys.”
After every other player on the team tested negative multiple times over the course of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, the NFL rescheduled the game for Monday night. However, it meant that the Patriots had to travel to Monday morning from New England to Kansas City to play the same night.
Jarrett Stidham, who along with Brian Hoyer filled in at quarterback for Newton on Monday, shared how things changed in the team’s preparation for the Chiefs.
“Going into Saturday morning, when we found out about the situation, it was really trying to figure out not only football but mainly health and safety of everybody in the building,” Stidham said. “It was kind of a spur of the moment type thing where we had to switch some things around, do virtual meetings, and I thought we did a good job of adapting to the situation and making the most of it.”
Stidham also said that Newton texted him over the weekend, saying “hey, anything you need, I’m here for you.”
Patriots safety Devin McCourty said he realized how lucky he was to have access to all the tests he received for the coronavirus over the weekend.
“It gave me real perspective just on what everyone in our country was going through,” McCourty said. “I think about people who don’t have the resources and everything we had over those last three days of testing. This test, that test, multiple tests, so many people in different communities just didn’t have that. As nerve-wracking and everything thing that was going on, I think we still have a sense of security that a lot of people didn’t have.
“We have a peace of mind with everything that’s going on. With all of the constant testing, with all of that stuff, obviously it wasn’t perfect, but I think we had a lot more peace of mind. You go over the last couple of months and people are leaving their houses or buildings just to walk in their hallways or streets.”
The Patriots ultimately fell to the Chiefs, 26-10, on Monday night. Slater realized how different the experience of traveling and playing on the same day was, but didn’t want to use it as a reason for why the Patriots lost.
“It was unique. I’ll say that. It was unique, Slater said. “But I certainly don’t want to use it as an excuse, nor does anyone else on this team. The first time I’ve done that in 13 years, playing in the National Football League. But look, anytime you get a chance to take the field, and they give you a uniform and a helmet, you go out there and try to make the best of it.
“That’s what we tried to do today. I certainly hope this isn’t something we don’t have to do again. I know a lot of us are creatures of habit and our routines were thrown off. But again, I don’t want to use that as an excuse. We just didn’t make enough plays today. It was a tough outing for us.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was asked if there was any concern of playing Monday’s game, to which he said “I think we’ve done everything right and what we’re supposed to do. So, it’s in the hands of medical people here.”
Hoyer was tabbed to start in Newton’s place. However, he had a performance that led to him getting benched for Stidham.
Hoyer completed 15 of 24 passes for 150 yards and an interception. He also had a fumble and a major blunder that cost the Patriots points at the end of the first half.
Like Slater, Hoyer didn’t want to use the weird situation as an excuse.
“I mean look, it is what it is,” Hoyer said. “I think a lot of people in 2020 are dealing with a lot of crazy things, ups and downs. We signed up for this and this is just the way it played out. Regardless of the situation, that had nothing to do with those two plays, I just got to do a better job.”
Slater wanted to make sure to send his prayers to his teammate and give thanks to those who were able to make Monday’s game happen.
“I’ll say this, first and foremost, we’re praying for Cam and his health, and hope he’s doing well,” Slater said. “I’d also like to thank the bio reference lab folks. We really appreciate all the work they’ve done to help us navigate this process.”
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