Patriots are preparing to play Denver Sunday despite closed facility

The Patriots shut their practice facility Wednesday and Thursday ahead of Sunday's game.

Bill Belichick.
Bill Belichick. –Jim Davis/The Boston Globe

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England coach Bill Belichick says the team is continuing to prepare to play this weekend against the Denver Broncos amid reports the Patriots returned no new positive COVID-19 tests on Thursday.

“This is really more of a medical situation than a football situation,” Belichick said during a conference call Thursday. “So we’ll work through the decisions and input from the people in the medical field, a combination of the Patriots and league. People that know this, know the situation, know the virus and the specific circumstances that are involved here, both in the past and going forward.”

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The Patriots shut their practice facility Wednesday and Thursday after quarterback Cam Newton, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and practice-squad player Bill Murray all tested positive for coronavirus over a five-day period.

Newton was held out of New England’s loss to the Chiefs on Monday after testing positive on Saturday. Gilmore didn’t test positive until Tuesday.

Belichick says the situation remains fluid regarding the status of Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

“I don’t think we can really plan too far ahead, (or) start talking Saturday, Sunday, or a bunch of other days,” he said. “There is a lot that can or can’t happen in the meantime. And as things change and if there are positive or potentially negative developments, we’ll look at those.”

Patriots players had the day off Tuesday, meaning that Friday could be their only practice this week if the game does proceed as planned.

Belichick said the Patriots have been in communication with the league regarding the time they need to prepare to play, but will keep those talks private.

“We knew that at the beginning of the season that there were going to be challenges, and there have been,” he said. “We’re ready to work through them. And that’s what we’re doing.”

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It is unknown whether Newton exhibited any coronavirus symptoms before or after his positive test, but Gilmore posted on Twitter that he was showing no symptoms as of Wednesday. Belichick said he hadn’t spoken with Newton in a day and had no update on his status.

According to the NFL’s COVID testing protocols, players showing symptoms can’t return until at least 10 days have passed since symptoms were first reported and at least 24 hours have passed since their last fever. All other symptoms, such as cough and shortness of breath, also must have improved.

If a player tests positive but shows no symptoms, he must either wait 10 days from the initial positive test, or can return after having two consecutive negative tests 24 hours apart.

So that leaves at least a chance both players could be available for Sunday’s game.

Belichick said there’s nothing preventing either player from participating in virtual meetings Thursday.

“We do the best we can with the opportunities we have,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but there is an opportunity to cover things and get things taught.”

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