BOSTON (CBS) — This season has been all about adjusting on the fly for the New England Patriots and pretty much every team in the NFL. Saturday morning was no different for the Pats.
With no new positive COVID-19 tests on Friday night, the team will hit the practice field for the first time all week Saturday morning after working remotely Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Patriots chose to close their facilities Wednesday following Stephon Gilmore’s positive COVID-19 test, which also caused the NFL to shift Sunday’s game against Denver to Monday night.
Even Bill Belichick’s Saturday morning chat with the media required the team to call an audible, as technically difficulties forced the video conference to become a conference call.
On that conference call, Belichick said that he doesn’t anticipate having Gilmore or quarterback Cam Newton on the practice field on Saturday. And when it comes to making a call for their availability for Monday night’s game, the coach wasn’t going to go there.
“I’m not getting into a bunch of hypotheticals. We’re taking it day by day, hour by hour,” he said.
Asked again if Newton may be able to return come Monday, Belichick again gave a firm response.
“Hour. By. Hour,” he said.
Ok, who will start if Cam can’t go for a second straight week?
“We’re taking it day by day. It’s Saturday morning,” he said. “I appreciate all the questions, but I’m not making decisions about Sunday or Monday. We’re trying to make the most of our opportunity today and will evaluate that and see what we have to do next. We’ll continue those preparations up until game time.”
That is the name of the game in the NFL in 2020. It isn’t easy, but to borrow a phrase from Bill, it is what it is.
“One thing we’ve learned this year is we all have to adapt to changes and make adjustments, and that’s what were going to do,” said Belichick. “Our practice today is going to be configured to maximize our opportunity to get on the field and continue our preparations for Denver. We’ll continue to be ready to adjust and adapt to what we have to do. We’re literally taking this, I wouldn’t say day by day, it’s more hour by hour. We’ll continue to move forward but at the same time know that we have to be ready to change, adjust and adapt as the situation calls for. I’m not going to try to make any decisions or long-range plans until we have a little more information. Certainly not until we have an opportunity to get through today.”
It’s not the best situation and certainly one that isn’t very easy to navigate, but Belichick isn’t going to complain about getting an unfair shake this week. It was the team’s decision to close their facilities, and Belichick said that if it keeps his players, staff and their families safe, then that’s the only way to do it.
“We have to make the decisions on what is best for our football team. That’s the health and safety of our team, and that’s the No.1 priority. Without that we don’t have a team. We have to maintain the integrity of not only our team but the extended team, our families and the loved ones for every member of our team. That has to come first,” he said. “Everybody recognizes that and feels the same way and we’ll have to work maybe a little harder to make up for some of the on-the-field practice time we missed this week.
“But we can’t compromise the health, safety and well-being of our team and the staff,” Belichick continued. “I don’t think that’s the way to go and in the long term that would be much more detrimental than a short-term adjustment we have to make to maximize everyone’s health and safety. That’s our approach and I know that’s the way Mr. Kraft looks at it, so that’s what we’re going to continue to do. We’ll put the team first and that’s our philosophy.”