As of Sunday, Cam Newton had yet to return consecutive negative COVID-19 tests, according to a report from FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer.
He might not need them to return to the New England Patriots.
Under NFL rules, players who test positive for the coronavirus but do not develop symptoms can rejoin their team after 10 days as long as they are cleared by club and NFL medical personnel. This applies even to players who continue to test positive.
Why would the NFL allow this? Patriots coach Bill Belichick offered an explanation during a Monday afternoon interview with WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria.”
“I think what you’re going to find is, if a person has the COVID virus, that they’re going to continue to test positive for a significant period of time,” Belichick said. “It could be, I don’t know, 30 or 60 days. I’m not sure. I’m not a doctor here. But it depends on how much the body and how quickly it sheds the virus, but not at a contagious state.
“So that’s really what it’s about. If you’re just looking at testing on somebody who’s tested positive, they’re going to be testing positive for a long time. We saw that, and many teams — I’ve talked to many other coaches — same thing. Guys that had it in the spring or in the summer continued to test positive into training camp, but that was based on the, whatever it is, 60 or 90 days — I forget exactly what the timetable is.
“But from the first positive test, there’s a certain period of time where they basically expect those tests to be positive.”
Belichick was sure to include the disclaimer that he is not a medical expert.
“Look, this whole area is really a medical discussion,” the coach said. “It’s not a football discussion. Frankly, it’s not something that I’m qualified to talk about. It’s really more of a situation that we rely on our medical staff, our doctors, our trainers and consultation with the league medical team, and that’s really what all this is about.
“You can’t expect a football coach to manage a hospital or make medical decisions on something like this. There’s no team in the league that’s doing it that way. This is at a different level here.”
What does this all mean for Newton? Well, since he tested positive Oct. 2 and, according to all reports, has remained symptom-free, he would have been eligible to play Monday night against the Denver Broncos if cleared by team doctors. The NFL rescheduled that game to this Sunday, increasing Newton’s chances of suiting up.
Belichick was asked Monday for an update on Newton’s condition.
“Any player that would come back to the team off the COVID (list) would have to go through a medical clearance,” he said on WEEI. “That will be part of any player’s return to the team from that situation. We’ll have to see how that goes.”
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive for COVID-19 last Tuesday, Oct. 5, meaning he’ll also be eligible to play Sunday if cleared. Gilmore wrote in a social media post Monday that he’s “ready to be back in action.”
Asymptomatic players can bypass the 10-day waiting period if they return two negative tests separated by 24 hours.
The Patriots have a total of four players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: Newton, Gilmore, defensive tackle Byron Cowart and practice squad D-tackle Bill Murray. They’re scheduled to practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday after taking the field just once (for a light Saturday session) last week.