BOSTON (CBS) — There have been a lot of questions surrounding Cam Newton’s availability in the near future, even if he continues to test positive for COVID-19.
But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained Monday that just because a player keeps testing positive doesn’t mean he won’t be able to play. The league is actually expecting players who have tested positive for the virus to continue to test positive for the foreseeable future.
Newton, who first tested positive 10 days ago, could be cleared to play for this weekend’s rescheduled game against the Denver Broncos. Newton has reportedly been asymptomatic throughout his bout with the virus, which makes it a little easier for the quarterback to return to action. NFL guidelines say asymptomatic players can be cleared after producing two negative tests 24 hours apart, or 10 days following their initial positive test, as long as they’re cleared by team and NFL doctors.
But the NFL is also expecting players to test positive well after they’re cleared to play, which makes the situation a rather complicated one. And as Belichick told WEEI during his weekly interview, that topic is best left for doctors and not a football coach.
Asked if Patriots players would feel comfortable with having a player who tested positive return before turning in a negative test, Belichick went into a little more detail about testing.
“What you’re going to find is that if a person has the COVID virus, that they’re going to continue to test positive for a significant period of time — 30-60 days, depending on how much the body and how quickly it sheds the virus, but not at a contagious state. If you’re just looking at testing for someone who tested positive, you’re going to see that for a long time. Many teams have seen that, with guys who had it in the spring or summer continued to test positive in training camp. But that was 60-90 days from the first positive test. There is a certain period of time where they expect those tests to be positive,” Belichick told WEEI.
“This is a medical discussion, not a football discussion. It’s not something I’m qualitied to talk about,” he added. “It’s a situation we rely on our medical staff, doctors and trainers, in consultation with the league medical team. That’s what this is about. You can’t expect a football coach to manage a hospital or make medical decisions. There is no team in the league doing it that way.”
There were reports that Patriots players were losing trust in the NFL and NFLPA to keep them safe during the season, and Jason McCourty certainly emphasized that stance with his comments on Saturday. Belichick wouldn’t speak for his players, but said that those involved are trying to keep everyone as safe as possible.
“Everybody wants the same thing; they want to be able to play and to do it safety, to manage some of the problems and things that have come up. That’s the way it has always been and there hasn’t been any change in that. Everyone is doing the best they can and we’re trying to make decisions for the health and safety of everyone,” he said. “Players are the most important part of the game, but we’re trying to look out for everybody.
“The problems aren’t easy but there are a lot of smart people involved and doing their best trying to handle the football and medical side of it,” he added.
The Patriots currently have four players on the NFL’s restricted/COVID list. The NFL had already pushed Sunday’s game against the Broncos to Monday night, but it was postponed for a second time Sunday when Byron Cowart’s COVID test came back positive.
The Patriots will not begin practicing again until Wednesday.