BOSTON (CBS) — Saturday’s news that Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19 was certainly unexpected. As a result, the NFL is scrambling to try to figure out how to proceed with this week’s game.
What is certain already about this week’s game is that if it happens, Cam Newton will not be playing. Looking ahead, though, when might the quarterback be able to return to action?
That much depends on a number of factors, the most significant of which is obviously whether or not the quarterback exhibits symptoms. If Newton gets sick, then all bets are off from a football standpoint, as the quarterback’s health rises to the utmost level of importance.
But if Newton is asymptomatic — like roughly 45 percent of people who test positive are — then the road back to the football field will be mapped out by the NFL’s protocols.
Per the NFL’s rules, an asymptomatic player who tests positive can return to the team’s facility after 10 days have passed since the initial positive test. For Newton, that date would be Monday, Oct. 12 — meaning he’d have to miss next weekend’s game against the Broncos.
However, that won’t necessarily be the case. Newton could return to the facility sooner if he tests negative in two separate tests, taken at least 24 hours apart. If he does that, then he can return after five days have passed since the initial positive test, provided those two PCR tests come back negative.
Given that no details have been reported about Newton’s status, it’s unclear whether or not he’s experienced any symptoms. If Newton does experience symptoms, then he’s not allowed to return to the facility until at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared and at least 72 hours have passed since he last experienced symptoms. In that case, if Newton develops symptoms at any point, it will essentially reset the clock and set up a new 10-day window for his potential return.
And whether he is symptomatic or asymptomatic, Newton will need to be cleared by the Patriots’ doctor before returning.
All of those rules apply to simply returning to the building. As for returning to the field, there’s an additional process.
If Newton experiences mild symptoms at any point, then upon his return to the Patriots’ facility, he’ll need to complete “at least a three-day progressive exercise protocol” with the team’s medical staff.
If Newton experiences “moderate to severe” symptoms, he’ll have to complete an exercise protocol for a recommended seven days “or for a period equal to twice the duration of the hospitalization.”
If that becomes the case, then of course Newton will not be returning any time soon. Really, the return-to-play protocols will only be of much concern if Newton is asymptomatic.
If Newton is asymptomatic and tests negative twice in the coming days, then he could possibly play on Oct. 11 vs. Denver. If not, he’ll be unable to return until after the Patriots’ bye week, with the team getting back to action on Oct. 25 at home against the 49ers.
As with anything coronavirus-related, there’s much that’s yet to be determined with Newton’s status. But in a best-case scenario where he’s asymptomatic and no other Patriots test positive, a return for the Broncos game in Week 5 cannot yet be ruled out.