When Denver was scheduled to face the host New England Patriots on Sunday, the Broncos probably thought their biggest worry was how to stop quarterback Cam Newton.
With Newton and at least one other New England player having tested positive for COVID-19 however, the bigger worry is whether there’s a risk of exposure.
Also, the NFL has moved the game from Sunday afternoon to Monday night, so Newton, who sat out the Oct. 5 loss at Kansas City and has missed practice this week, has extra time to recover. The game is set for a 5 p.m. start on Monday, and will air on ESPN.
Patriots dealing with COVID-19 positives
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore also tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, throwing more doubt into the Patriots’ game plan. New England has also placed practice-squad defensive tackle Bill Murray on the COVID-19 list, which is for players who have tested positive or have been exposed to someone who has.
The Patriots (2-2) closed their facility and canceled practices for Wednesday and Thursday, and may not practice until Saturday.
Gilmore released a statement on Wednesday acknowledging his positive test and saying he was asymptomatic.
Even when the game was set for Sunday, there was a chance that Newton could play. According to NBCBoston, Newton and Gilmore are both asymptomatic, so they could play if they have two negative tests in a 24-hour period.
If Newton stays sidelined, coach Bill Belichick will have to decide between Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham as the replacement.
Hoyer started last Monday night but struggled, completing 15 of 24 passes for 130 yards and no scores with one interception. Stidham came on and threw a touchdown pass but completed just 5 of 13 overall for 60 yards and was picked off twice.
Suffice to say, New England hopes Newton can pass the protocols and play.
“We’ll take it day by day,” Belichick said during a weekly radio interview on Tuesday. “I’m not going to try to make any predictions or read into a crystal ball on where things are going to be Friday, Saturday, or some other day in the week. There are so many unpredictable factors here. You just can’t nail them down. So we’ll work with what we can work with.”
Long layoff for Broncos
The Broncos (1-3) haven’t played since beating the New York Jets on Oct. 1. Quarterback Brett Rypien made his first NFL start and did enough to defeat the lowly Jets. He hit on 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards and two scores, despite three interceptions.
Rypien was expected to start when the game was scheduled for Sunday, but there is hope that the Broncos’ top quarterback, Drew Lock, can return earlier than expected from a right shoulder injury suffered on a sack at Pittsburgh on Sept. 20.
However, Lock was limited at practice Thursday, as he was the day before.
There’s more to the second-year quarterback’s return than his ability to throw the ball, coach Vic Fangio said.
“I think besides just the throwing, which is the obvious evaluator to whether he’s able to play or not, you also have to know whether he’s capable both physically and mentally to take a hit or go to the ground,” Fangio said. “That’s how he got hurt initially, going to the ground with his shoulder into the ground.”
The Broncos are also expected to have running back Phillip Lindsay back from a turf toe injury that kept him out of the last three games. Tight end Noah Fant (ankle) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and may not play against New England.
Nose tackle Mike Purcell (knee) and linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (quad) are both questionable for the Broncos after not participating in practice Thursday.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)