By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL thought it was invincible. The NFL has learned it is not invincible.
The league did everything it could to cram in the Patriots-Chiefs Week 4 tilt in Kansas City, despite the fact that a COVID-19 outbreak was just starting to blossom in Foxboro. As soon as Cam Newton’s positive test was revealed on Saturday morning, the league should have postponed the game until it had a much better grasp of the situation.
But not even the quarterback testing positive, a guy whom Bill Belichick said was is the building more than anyone else and makes it a point to connect with anyone and everyone in the franchise just a day prior, was enough for the NFL to push one of its marquee matchups to later in the season.
Instead, they moved the game 27 hours to Monday night after no additional Patriots players tested positive on Sunday and Monday. Ignoring what we know about the virus’ incubation period, they made the Patriots fly to Missouri on Monday, play the Chiefs later that evening, and then fly back to New England that night.
At least the Patriots took two planes (one of which was filled with all of Newton’s “close contacts”) before they shared a locker room and then played some tackle football.
But it turns out that making a team play a contact sport three days after their quarterback tested positive probably wasn’t a good idea. Now, the Patriots have another positive case in star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who reportedly tested positive for the virus on Tuesday night. Practice squad defensive tackle Bill Murray was also placed on the reserve/COVID list on Tuesday. It feels like this is just the tip of the iceberg in New England.
If only the issues were limited to the just Patriots, then the NFL could have them shut down for a week or two like the Tennessee Titans recently tried. Alas, it is not just a Patriots issue, with the Oakland Raiders also dealing with positive tests popping up Tuesday and Wednesday.
Guess who the Patriots played last week. The Las Vegas Raiders.
And shutting down the Titans facilities for almost two weeks after a rash of positive tests following Week 3 has not yet had the desired effect either. The Titans were set to open their facilities again on Wednesday, only to have two additional players test positive on Wednesday morning. Those facilities remain closed until further notice, and the Titans probably won’t be playing football for a second straight weekend.
The is making it official. Titans building remains closed with 2 new positive results in for Titans players. Sunday's game very much in doubt
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) October 7, 2020
The fact that the Titans are still testing positive two weeks after their initial positive tests is the biggest reason the NFL should probably consider taking a break at the moment.
Major League Baseball went through a similar outbreak early in its season and managed to survive, so there is hope that the NFL can too. But it certainly feels like the wheels are falling off the 2020 NFL season at the moment, and Roger Goodell should probably have his league take the next few plays off. A two-week break may not solve the issue, but it will give the league time to figure things out before they play more games and potentially further the spread.
No one wants to see the season get put on pause. No one wants to see the season fall apart. But if for nothing else, the NFL should take a break for the safety of its players, coaches, officials and all of their families. That is really all that matters at the moment.
If players Patriots players continue to test positive, and positive tests then hit the Kansas City organization, forcing the two teams to play Monday night is going to become a gigantic second-guess for the NFL. In the end, it could be one that costs them the 2020 season.