There appears to be a good chance New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton could play in Week 5 based on the NFL’s official language on players returning off of the COVID-19/reserve list.
The Patriots’ Week 5 matchup with the Denver Broncos was pushed back 24 hours and 35 minutes from Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET to Monday at 5 p.m. ET. And that, in turn, improved the odds that Newton can return off of the COVID/reserve list to play.
Newton was last reported to be asymptomatic. Here’s a refresher on the NFL rules for asymptomatic players returning off of the COVID/reserve list:
1. Ten days have passed since the initial positive test OR
2. Two consecutive negative PCR virus tests separated by 24 hours AND
3. Return approved by the team physician after consultation with medical experts at Infection Control Education for Major Sports (ICS) and notification of NFL Chief Medical Officer
Newton tested positive Friday, Oct. 2. The Patriots play the Broncos on Monday, Oct. 12. That means 10 days will have passed since Newton’s initial positive test.
Newton also can play if he registers two consecutive negative PCR tests separated by 24 hours. We currently do not know the status of Newton’s PCR tests.
Any return will be subject to the approval of the team physician, however. So, it is possible that even if 10 days have passed since Newton’s initial positive test and the QB passes two consecutive PCR tests that he won’t be able to play Monday. The NFL has included plenty of gray area in its COVID procedures.
It’s complicated and unclear to determine definitively whether or not the Patriots will have their starting QB on Monday.
There’s also the issue of whether the Patriots would put Newton on the field 10 days after his last practice. If the alternative is starting Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer, then it seems smart to put Newton on the field.
Newton also could pass two consecutive PCR tests by Saturday, when the Patriots will hold their first practice of the week.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who tested positive Tuesday and was placed on the COVID list Wednesday, would have to pass two consecutive PCR tests and be approved to return by a team doctor to play.
The Broncos are expected to be short-staffed, too, though their health concerns are not COVID-related. Quarterback Drew Lock has been questionable with a shoulder injury, No. 1 wide receiver Courtland Sutton is out for the season, and rookie wide receiver K.J. Hamler, starting tight end Noah Fant and starting cornerback A.J. Bouye are unlikely to play.
The Broncos will be playing on short rest in Week 6. The Patriots, meanwhile, have a well-timed Week 6 bye.