The New England Patriots will return to the practice field Saturday morning after a week of virtual meetings.
That’s as far ahead as Bill Belichick is planning.
Speaking Saturday morning on a conference call, the Patriots head coach repeatedly stated he and his team are taking things “day by day” and “hour by hour” as they prepare for their Week 5 matchup with the Denver Broncos, which was moved from Sunday to Monday after cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19.
“Today’s an important day in our preparation for the Broncos,” Belichick said. “We’ve had several days now of virtual meetings between the staff members and from the staff to the players. We’ve been able to cover a lot of things, but we haven’t spent any time together, so today’s our opportunity to do that. We look forward to that. One thing that we’ve learned this year repeatedly has been we have to be ready to adjust and adapt to changes and modifications and the way we do things and, in some cases, decisions that really come down to a very short amount of time that we have to be ready to adjust to.
“So we’re certainly taking things day by day — probably hour by hour would be more accurate. We’ll just see how we progress and then as we find out more on our end, or if there are other things externally that we can’t control that, then we’ll deal with those as they come. That’s the way it’s been all year. I think our team and our players have done a good job of handling those adjustments, and we’ll continue to do that.”
Belichick said Gilmore and quarterback Cam Newton — who also is on the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive last Friday — will not practice Saturday. The coach would not, however, discuss whether either has a chance to play against Denver or who would start at QB if Newton cannot.
“We’re just going to try to get through the day here and prepare the best that we can for the Broncos any opportunity that we have today, and then we’ll reevaluate things where we are after that and continue our preparations up until game time,” Belichick said.
“We’re really not trying to make a lot of long-term decisions here or even game decisions until we can actually get out there today and start to go through our team preparation process together and get a better sense of where we are and what we need to do in the next 48-plus hours.”
Belichick made the decision to cancel practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday following Gilmore’s diagnosis, giving the Patriots just one full practice (Saturday) and one walkthrough (Sunday) to prepare for Monday’s game.
Asked whether he feels like his team is at a competitive disadvantage against a Broncos squad that enjoyed a full week of practice, Belichick said the health of his players, coaches and support staff — and their families — takes precedence over game preparation.
“I feel like I had to make the decisions on what’s best for our football team, and what’s best for our football team is the health and safety of our team,” Belichick said. “That’s our No. 1 priority. Without that, we don’t have a team. We have to maintain the integrity of not only our football team, but also the extended team — our families and the loved ones for every member of our team. That’s got to come first. And I think everybody recognizes that, feels the same way.
“We’ll have to work maybe a little bit harder to make up for some of the on-the-field practice time that we’ve missed this week, but we can’t compromise the health, safety and well-being of our football team, including our staff. I don’t think that’s the answer. I don’t think that’s the way to go. And in the long term, I think that’s going to be much more detrimental than a short-term adjustment that we have to make in order to maximize everyone’s health and safety.
“So that’s our approach. That’s the way I look at it, and I know that’s the way Mr. (Robert) 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.”
Kickoff Monday is set for 5:02 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium.